Single handed sailing is not for the faint hearted.

Robin Knox-Johnston on board Suhali

I’ve become increasingly fascinated by single handed (solo) sailing and specifically single handed circumnavigations. The first person to sail around the world single handed was Joshua Slocum in 1898. His journey took 3 years and he made many stops along the way.

Sixty eight years later Francis Chichester, who Later became Sir Francis Chichester for obvious reasons, decided to try his hand at the journey. He left Plymouth on August 1966 and returned 226 days later after stopping once in Australia. He was 67 at the time and was the first person to circumnavigate with only one stop.

This meant there was only one thing left to do… Circumnavigate, single handed, without stopping. Two years later, in 1968, Robin Knox-Johnston left Falmouth and 313 days later arrived back in Falmouth to much fanfare.

It’s far too easy to romanticise these journeys but reading the books written by these men is both inspiring and scary. It’s often in the minutia that the true risks involved in these kinds of endeavours are exposed.

I found this in the “Pilot’s Notes” section at the back of Knox-Johnston’s book “A World of My Own”:

“There was a small diver’s lifejacket on board, but again I did not use it. It got in the way for one thing, and if I had fallen overside, although I would have swum in the direction of the nearest land, one has to be realistic, and it would probably have been best to get it over quickly.”

I think those two sentences sum it up better than any book every could.


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