Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has the impressive distinction of being the first to sail solo, non-stop around a world, a feat he accomplished during the 1968/9 Golden Globe Race. And while many other sailors have performed that feat in increasingly shorter times, Knox-Johnston will forever be remembered as the first sailor to do it — in a grueling 312 days on board his 32-foot ketch Suhaili. Now an archive of 3,000 photos documenting Knox-Johnston's voyage has been discovered and saved for posterity by photographer Bill Rowntree and Barry Pickthall of PPL Ltd.
The black and white photos were taken by former Sunday Mirror newspaper photographer Bill Rowntree and they document Knox-Johnson's departure and return to Falmouth as the sole finisher in the 27,000-mile Golden Globe Race. The photos had sat in the Sunday Mirror's photo library for decades and were about to be tossed into a dumpster when the London newspaper prepared to move from Fleet Street to new offices in Canary Wharf. Rowntree happened to be in the office that day for a visit and the library photo manager asked him if he'd like to have the images. Rowntree said yes and took them to his house in Kent. There the images stayed until photographer Barry Pickthall of PPL called and asked if Rowntree had a picture that foul weather gear manufacturer Henri-Lloyd needed for its 60th anniversary celebration. Rowntree said he did and asked "What should we do with the other 3,000 pictures I have here?" Pickthall has since taken the pictures into the library of yachting images at PPL.
Knox-Johnston, who is now inspiring hundreds of amateur sailors to follow in his adventurous wake aboard a 12-strong fleet of yachts in the Clipper Round the World Race starting from the U.K. in August, says of the find, "I thought these pictures were lost, so it was a wonderful surprise to discover that this unique record of my return to Falmouth in 1969 still exists."
PPL has now archived the entire collection of negatives and scanned in the best so that they are available to view online.