Velux 5 Oceans - Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person ever to sail solo around the world non-stop, was today united with the son of a New Zealand fisherman who he met on his historic singlehanded circumnavigation.
When they first met off the south coast of New Zealand 43 years ago, Mark Waters’ father Lawrie was one the first people Sir Robin had seen in more than 170 days alone at sea.
Sir Robin made history when he sailed back into Falmouth, UK, on April 22 1969 in his 32ft wooden ketch Suhaili after 312 days at sea. During the voyage Sir Robin ran aground off Dunedin, a small port in the south of New Zealand, while attempting to send a message ashore that he was safe.
Lawrie Waters, a local fisherman, was one of four men who set out to greet Sir Robin in their fishing boat Anna D. The fishermen were the first people Sir Robin had had any significant contact with since setting sail from Falmouth, UK, on his momentous voyage in June 1968.
'I ran into bad weather coming past New Zealand so I came in close to Dunedin to let people know I was ok,' Sir Robin explained. 'I hadn’t slept for 70 or 80 hours and I had no chart of the area, and as I got closer to land I ran aground. As I was sat waiting for the tide to come up a boat came out from Dunedin with four guys onboard. Lawrie Waters was one of those men, and we have kept in touch with each other for 43 years.'
Sir Robin met again with Lawrie in 1977 when he stopped in New Zealand with the Whitbread Round the World Race, and again in the early 1990s when Sir Robin race round the world on 85ft catamaran Enza with Sir Peter Blake. Each year Sir Robin, now 72, and Lawrie, 76, write to each other.
Lawrie’s son Mark, a member of Wellington’s Royal Port Nicholas Yacht Club, was united with Sir Robin for the first time today during a Q&A session with the skippers of the VELUX 5 OCEANS solo round the world race, of which Sir Robin is the chairman. Mark presented Sir Robin with a letter from his father as well as a collection photographs of the pair together and pictures of Anna D.
'It was lovely to be given the letter and photos by Mark,' Sir Robin added. 'I really didn’t expect that! Seeing the photos brought back some very happy memories.'
Mark, who was only seven years old when his father met Sir Robin, said: 'When Dad heard Sir Robin would be coming to Wellington he asked me to deliver his annual letter in person along with some photographs of the two of them. It’s wonderful to have finally met Sir Robin and to be able to continue the family connection.'
Sir Robin played a key role in the founding of the VELUX 5 OCEANS in 1982 when it was known as the BOC Challenge, and has been chairman ever since. In 2007 he made history again when he competed in the VELUX 5 OCEANS at the age of 67, becoming the oldest person ever to complete a solo round the world race.
The skippers of the current edition of the VELUX 5 OCEANS have so far sailed more than 15,000 nautical miles from La Rochelle to Wellington via Cape Town during two ocean sprints. After several weeks in port making repairs to their Eco 60 racing yachts, they set sail on ocean sprint three to Punta del Este in Uruguay at 2.30pm local time (0130 UTC) on Sunday. www.velux5oceans.com