A sailor who has completed one of the most gruelling challenges in the world has praised Dorset Adult Learning where he first learnt the ropes.

Steve White of Dorchester finished the Vendee Globe round the world challenge. The race is single handed and stops and external help are banned making it one of the toughest in the sailing calendar. Out of the 30 boats that started last November, only nine finished. Steve’s challenge was made greater as he received no sponsorship for his vessel Toe in the Water.

Steve’s sailing career started with Dorset Adult Learning in Sherborne a decade ago when he studied for Royal Yachting Association qualifications with his wife Kim. They both did the RYA’s Day Skipper course then Steve went on to complete the Coastal Skipper qualification with tutor Bob Wilkins, fondly known as Cap’n Bob by his students.

Steve says: “Dorset Adult Learning provided a solid basis for my sailing passion as Bob took us through the RYA’s Shore Based Qualifications. Bob’s tutelage, experience and knowledge served to inspire me further and drive me towards my ultimate goal. Armed with the basics, I was able to gain the experience to eventually become a professional sailor and ultimately complete my first successful Vendee Globe.”

Bob says: “Steve was a marvellous student, intelligent and determined and he started with no knowledge. His success in the Vendee Globe is amazing, especially as he had no sponsorship. Steve is very measured and sensible and wouldn’t have taken any risks.”

Bob has taught with Dorset Adult Learning for nearly 14 years having had a career in both the Royal and Merchant Navy. He says: “I enjoy teaching tremendously. Every year I say that’s it, my last year, but I’m still there. It’s wonderful to see students achieving such marvellous things.”

Janet Beauchamp, Service Manager for Curriculum, Quality and Learner Services for DAL says: “What Steve has achieved is an amazing accomplishment. This just goes to show what varied interests and successes our learners go on to achieve. It’s amazing where adult learning classes can lead!”

The Vendee Globe race starts from Les Sables d’Olonnes on the west coast of France. The route takes competitors down the North and South Atlantic and into the Southern Ocean, passing south of the Cape of Good Hope and around Antartica in the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties before rounding the Cape Horn. Sailors finally head back across the Atlantic to France, an epic voyage of 27,000 miles.

The next Vendee Globe starts in October 2012.