Please select your home edition
Edition
Gul 2019 CODEZERO EVO Leaderboard
JOIN THE RACE JOIN THE 2019-20 RACE MAGAZINE DOWNLOAD THE OFFICIAL SOUVENIR RACE MAGAZINE Check out the latest photo galleries from The Clipper Race
UNICEF ABOUT UNICEF

Sailor's salute Sir Robin on 50 year anniversary of Golden Globe victory

by Clipper Round the World 22 Apr 2019 02:00 PDT 22 April 2019
Sir Robin pictured in 1969 crossing the finish line in Golden Globe Race © Bill Rowntree / PPL Media

Britain's leading sailors are paying tribute to Sir Robin Knox-Johnston today on the 50th anniversary of the date, 22 April 1969, that he entered history books as the first person to ever sail solo, non-stop around the world.

"To me, Sir Robin is an iconic figure and one of the greatest sailors to ever set foot in a boat." Said Sir Ben Ainslie, Britain's most decorated Olympic sailor, during filming for a documentary about the achievement, which took place in the same year of the first moon landing.

Sir Ben added: "The Golden Globe and Sir Robin Knox Johnston's amazing triumph against the rest of the world, winning for Britain, was an amazing feat of seamanship and something that will never be forgotten."

Sir Robin and his 32-ft yacht from that voyage, Suhaili, which has been lovingly hand-restored, along with a support flotilla, are heading back to the same spot on the water in Falmouth Harbour today to re-create the exact time, 1525, when he crossed the finish line of The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race and returned home to scenes of national jubilation after 312 days alone at sea.

Leading round the world yachtswoman Dee Caffari commented: "We often talk about the achievement of being the first man on the moon, and I think you can make a very similar comparison to Sir Robin for sailing around the world. He created that first non-stop sail that nobody thought was possible. It hadn't been done until he completed it and he laid that pathway for all of us to follow."

Inspired by Sir Francis Chichester, who had sailed around the world but had stopped in Australia, there was one achievement left in Robin's mind; to be first to go solo, non-stop. He faced huge challenges in his quest to complete the unknown. Not only during the journey itself but also from sceptics. Could it actually be done? Would the boat hold up? Wouldn't you go mad? How long would it take? Was Robin the man to achieve this feat?

A real-life story of the underdog, he received no sponsorship other than 120 cans of Tennants beer and a £5 Cadbury voucher. When he set sail from Falmouth on 14 June 1968, aged 29, he had jaundice but hid it as he feared he would have been stopped from going. Before the days of GPS satellite technology, he had only the same navigational tools as Captain Cook; the stars and a sextant. He had to fix a leak in the side of his yacht in shark infested waters, and not too far into his journey, he lost his freshwater tanks when his boat was knocked down by a wave, leaving him having to catch rainwater in his sails to survive.

Later, Robin lost all contact after his radio broke, and was presumed lost at sea for over four months before being reported alive by a British tanker just weeks from the finish line. He was also crippled with stomach pain in the latter stages and years later found out his appendix had likely burst, but still he carried on, dedicated to his mission. He also famously never officially entered the race, but the Sunday Times built the entry rules around his plans.

Of the nine people who set out in quest of becoming the first to circumnavigate solo, non-stop, the sailing equivalent of climbing Mount Everest, Sir Robin was the only one to complete the journey.

Comparing the experiences Sir Robin had fifty years ago compared to his own, British solo yachtsman Alex Thomson, the youngest Skipper to ever win the Clipper Race, on board Ariel in the 1996 edition, says: "People ask what it is like now compared to when Robin did it in 68-69. And for me there's no relation, you know for one, I need to have some reasonably constant communication with my team, with my family. I need to have that feeling that I have some control over the abilities where I'll talk to people, whereas back then Robin didn't have that.

He added: "The thought of doing more than 300 days... that's a different level, that's a completely different scale, so I can't see that what it is now is as hard as it was then. Perhaps the speed makes it more difficult, you know the stress of the speed being able to do 40 knots and instead of perhaps six or seven as a top speed, but still I would never choose to do what Robin did."

Following 1969, Robin went on to claim numerous honours, including the inaugural entry into the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Hall of Fame. He has been named Yachtsman of the Year an unprecedented four times by the Royal Yachting Association, set a record for the fastest circumnavigation with Sir Peter Blake in 1994, for which they were awarded the Trophée Jules Verne, and was knighted by the Queen in recognition of his service to sailing. In 2006, aged 67, he also set a new record for being the oldest yachtsman to sail solo around the world, in the Velux 5 Oceans Race.

Sir Robin is also Co-Founder and Chairman of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Today, over 5,000 international adventurers have been introduced to ocean racing in eleven editions of the biennially held Clipper Race, which Sir Robin which considers to be one of his greatest legacy in sailing.

Various public celebrations took place over the weekend in Falmouth, including the unveiling of a brass footprint cast in Falmouth Haven marina to mark Sir Robin's last steps as he departed on 15 June, 1968, and his first steps back on land 312 days later. An exhibition of recently unearthed images from his journey are also on display until 1 September at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

The upcoming documentary, which also features interviews with Alex Thomson, Sir Chris Bonington, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and the BBC's John Simpson, will be out early May. Details to follow via @SirRKJ on Twitter and Instagram.

Click here to listen to the BBC Radio 4's Archive programme 'Sailing Into History' about Sir Robin's journey, as told by himself and members of his family, along with archive audio from the time.

Find out more at www.clipperroundtheworld.com

Related Articles

Nailbiting conclusion to Sanya Tropical Race
WTC Logistics scoops top spot and first podium of the Clipper 2019-20 Race WTC Logistics clinched victory in Race 6: The Sanya Tropical Paradise from the Whitsundays, Australia to Subic Bay, Philippines in dramatic fashion. Overtaking Qingdao and Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, who finished second and third respectively Posted on 15 Feb
The Clipper Race Leg 5 - Race 6, Day 26
The race remains: Each team made a valiant effort in their quest WTC Logistics, Qingdao and Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam have arrived into Subic Bay, Philippines securing first, second and third podium places respectively in Race 6. Posted on 14 Feb
The Clipper Race Leg 5 - Race 6, Day 25
The finale continues to be a thrilling and closely fought contest The competition at the top of the current race standings couldn't be closer. Hit refresh on the Clipper Round the World, Race Viewer and the four leading teams seem to shuffle as quickly as the screen and website is able to reload. Posted on 13 Feb
The Clipper Race Leg 5 - Race 6, Day 24
The path to success is never smooth The eventual champion of Race 6 will need to navigate through the difficult, fickle weather conditions and seize any advantage thrown at them in the final 200 nautical miles to the finish line. Posted on 12 Feb
The Clipper Race Leg 5 - Race 6, Day 23
The front runners are closing in on the home straight The front runners are closing in on the home straight but all teams remain resolutely motivated in the challenge ahead and aren't relenting in their quest to achieve an improved ranking in the overall race positions or indeed achieving a podium place. Posted on 11 Feb
The Clipper Race Leg 5 - Race 6, Day 22
Whose decision-making will have paid off? Many of the teams have now completed the Dell Latitude Rugged Ocean Sprint, following the crossing most skippers have been pondering on their tactical decision making. Posted on 10 Feb
The Clipper Race Leg 5 - Race 6, Day 21
The fleet charge towards the Dell Latitude Rugged Ocean Sprint Across the board, the teams have reported increased boat speeds and the varied change in conditions has introduced the newer crew members to a faster paced ocean racing environment. Posted on 9 Feb
The Clipper Race Leg 5 - Race 6, Day 20
Current leaderboard positions remain unchanged As the current leaderboard positions remain unchanged it has some of the teams feeling like it is Groundhog Day on board. Posted on 8 Feb
The Clipper Race Leg 5 - Race 6, Day 19
Many of the teams are still racing remarkably close The trade winds have brought speedy sailing conditions and with that, swift sail changes which in itself brings challenges in this ocean-racing game. Posted on 7 Feb
The Clipper Race Leg 5 - Race 6, Day 18
The competition continues to thrill In particular, there is a close battle for second place between Qingdao,Visit Sanya, China, Imagine your Korea and Punta del Este with WTC Logistics also striving to increase its position. Posted on 6 Feb
SOUTHERN-SPARS-OFFICIAL-SUPPLIER-52-SS728-X-90 BottomETNZShop-TEAMSHOP-728x90 HR BottomNorth Sails 2019 - NSVictoryList - Footer