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Southern Spars - North Technology

Chay Blyth 40th anniversary

by Barry Pickthall on 12 Aug 2011
The 59ft ketch ’British Steel’ Chay Blyth Archive/PPL
Tomorrow (Friday 12th August) marks the 40th anniversary of Chay Blyth's return to Southampton after completing the first Solo non-stop West-about circumnavigation. Battling against the prevailing winds and currents aboard the 59ft ketch 'British Steel', Blyth completed the remarkable 27,000 mile circumnavigation in 292 days.


He arrived back to a hero's welcome on the last Friday of Cowes Week, to be met on the dockside at the Royal Southern YC on the Hamble by Prince Philip, Princess Anne and Prime Minister Edward Heath.

Chay, who was knighted in 1997 for services to the sport, later organised a series of Global Challenge adventures, starting with the British Steel Challenge in 1992, to give amateurs the opportunity to sail round the world in a series of identical steel yachts. More than 1,000 took up his challenge.

Blyth, who was in Cowes yesterday (Wednesday) recalled: 'I would have finished back three days earlier than the 292 it took me to complete the voyage, had I not been asked to slow down to time my return with the end of Cowes Week.'

The feat equalled what Robin Knox-Johnston had achieved two years earlier when he won the Sunday Times Golden Globe Trophy by becoming the first to sail solo non-stop around the world in an Easterly route - with the wind and currents.

Blyth, a former Paratroop Sergeant lost his wind vane self steering system off Cape Horn, but undeterred, completed the remaining 20,000 miles steering by hand.

During the voyage he also encountered a Russian trawler on a collision course late one night. Unable to get a response from flashing his Aldis lamp at the bridge, Blyth threw an explosive charge high in the air. The bang and blinding flash not only woke the man on watch but brought the entire crew on deck. Once radio contact had been made, The Russian Captain asked Blyth:

'Where did you leave from?

'Southampton'

'Where are you bound for?

'Southampton'

'What was your last port of call?

'Southampton'

'How many crew have you onboard?'

'None.'

The fishermen than had their worst fears confirmed when Blyth told them that he previously rowed across the Atlantic!

To view the Chay Blyth archive click here.

These, and thousands, more can be viewed on-line at:

PPL's Watersport and SubAqua library website.
Pictures of Yesteryear library website.










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