One of the most impressive feats of ocean voyaging ever accomplished had its 40th-year anniversary last week. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston‘s record as the first man to sail solo, non-stop around the world was remembered on April 22. And Knox-Johnston wasn’t sailing one of today’s go-fast skimming dishes or multihulls. He did it the old fashioned way: in the 32-foot teak-hulled ketch Suhaili – a heavy displacement hull that moved the water out of the way instead of sailing over it. Plowing your way around the world takes time and Sir Robin took 312 days at sea to accomplish his laudable voyaging first.
From the press release: On April 22 1969, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston made history as the first man to sail singlehanded and non-stop around the world. He was the only competitor to finish the Sunday Times Golden Globe yacht race after 312 days alone at sea and to this day remains the only British sailor to win a singlehanded round the world race.
April 22 2009 saw the pioneering skipper mark the 40-year anniversary of this incredible accomplishment in central London. Having once again sailed alone around the planet only two years ago at the age of 68 in the VELUX 5 OCEANS, Sir Robin brought his original boat from 1969, Suhaili, up to Tower Bridge.
Sir Robin is the Chairman of Clipper Ventures Plc, the marine events company he established in 1995 and which now operates the VELUX 5 OCEANS and the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
He was joined in St Katharine Docks by Hull & Humber, one of the ten identical internationally-sponsored 68-foot racing yachts which will compete in the next Clipper Race, the only global event for non-professional sailors. Onboard he was welcomed by eight of the 18 British sailors who have successfully circumnavigated the planet alone, including female skipper Dee Caffari and Dorset hero Steve White, both of whom recently finished the infamous VendÃ©e Globe race.
Speaking from Hull & Humber, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said, “I am delighted to mark the anniversary of my victory in the Golden Globe. Forty years ago nobody knew whether sailing alone around the world was even possible â€“ but it was a time of change and adventure, as man landed on the moon and we extended the frontiers of possibility. Of the nine starters in that inaugural race, I was the only one to cross the finish line. Completing the race onboard Suhaili was an important moment in pushing the boundaries of our sport. So much has changed since then, in terms of the size and speed of the boats, as well as the technology. However, the harsh realities and dangers of the challenge of sailing non-stop solo around the world remain the same.
“I am proud to have achieved this historic first. I am also pleased to be joined by so many of the British sailors who have followed in my footsteps. Although I am the last British skipper to win such a race around the world, there is such a huge pool of British offshore sailing talent. Having broken new ground in 1969, I am pleased not only to support the future professional sailing today via the VELUX 5 OCEANS race, but equally to encourage people from all walks of life to fulfill their dreams of racing across oceans by taking part in the Clipper Race.”
Sir Robin was joined by friends and guests from the sailing world for a curry lunch in central London where his achievement was toasted with a dram of Benromach Speyside Single Malt Whisky which was distilled in 1969. Only 40 numbered bottles of the special commemorative bottling have been produced and David Urquhart, Joint Managing Director of Gordon & MacPhail, owner of the Benromach distillery, was on hand to present bottle number one to Sir Robin, a global ambassador for Benromach.
Sir Robin was also joined by BBC News presenter, Chris Eakin, who has recently published A Race Too Far, a book detailing the incredible story of the Golden Globe. Inspired to tell the story of the race after meeting Sir Robin, Chris has interviewed families, friends and competitors in order to uncover the inspiring and devastating tales.