A dream that seemed unimaginable just weeks ago for British solo sailor Steve White has today come true. Just after 1pm local time he set-sail in his IMOCA 60 yacht ‘Toe in the Water’, to take part in the Vendée Globe, the gruelling solo, non-stop round the world race.

Although winds at the start had been predicted to gust up to as much as 35 knots, it was in fact a more reasonable 12 knots that started 30 sailors on their globe-spanning journey. Although Steve (35, from Weymouth, Dorset) qualified for the race at the beginning of 2008, he only secured the final backing required to take the challenge on in the last few weeks. A group of private individual raised the shortfall in his racefund and in a philanthropic move requested simply that the boat be named ‘Toe in the Water’.

Thus raising awareness of the organisation set up to inspire and aid the rehabilitation of injured British servicemen through competitive sailing. Since realising his dream was on, it has been a race against an ever ticking clock to assemble a team who could help him undertake the extensive work required to get his boat ready – and it has literally been all hands on deck as friends and family mucked in to make sure that everything was completed in time.

A crowd of at least 300,000 gathered in Les Sables, D’Olonne (France), filling every inch of available space along the canal and beach. They gave a rapturous send-off to each of the 30 heroes of sailing who will compete for the coveted Vendeé Globe. The race will take the skippers approximately three months, during which time they sail entirely alone and with no outside assistance. Steve is excited about the adventure that lies in front of him, “I’ve dreamed of this for so long, and now that the start is here it seems almost unreal. Now that the moment is here I just want to get out there and start sailing; I won’t be last, and I’ll be trying as hard to get round in a decent position as I tried to get here. I’m eternally grateful to my family, friends and backers for getting me to this point, and look forward to seeing them in a few months.”