Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today is Robin Knox-Johnston Day. Here's to Saltwater in Yer Blood.

Today I honor my number one sailing hero, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. On this day, 40 years ago, Knox-Johnston completed a non-stop, solo circumnavigation of the planet by sailboat -- the first man to do so -- winning the Golden Globe Race in 1969. (Here's his wiki page).

To put that in perspective for non-sailors, even in 2009, only around 300 people have sailed non-stop alone around the world while many multiple thousands have reached the peak of Everest.

After a year at sea, and no radio contact with race HQ for several months, Knox-Johnston was thought to be lost and they were preparing his obituary. Then, out of nowhere, he just showed up in England -- the only race competitor to actually finish the race. He won 5,000 British Pounds as the winner of the race, but donated it to the family of another competitor, Donald Crowhurst, who had committed suicide at sea during the race. The picture above is so great because it shows Knox-Johnston still on board, enjoying his first beer in a year as he sailed up the Thames. What a damn good feeling that must have been.

I met Knox-Johnston two years ago after he'd completed another solo round-the-world race at age 68. Sixty-eight years old! Here's a picture of me and him on that day:

He was spry as hell and I loved the fact that his yacht was the only one in the race sponsored by a brand of whisky. I caught him partaking in some of the free product given to him by the sponsor:

If you haven't read Voyage for Madmen about the race in 1968, and you still call yourself a sailor, I'm not sure I can respect you until you go to Amazon right now and buy it. That book is hands down the best sailing race story ever written.

Why does someone partake in such a feat? Why do people even sail? It's often slow, wet, cold, and takes lots of work. What's the point? One of Knox-Johnston's competitors in the 1968 race, Bernard Moitessier, put it best: "You do not ask a tame seagull why it needs to disappear from time to time toward the open sea. It goes, that's all."


(More blogs who're also marking April 22 as RKJ Day).
he's my kind of man!!,but the word spry doesn't do it, 68 is the new 38..
three of the best pics you have put on the blog.
specially the old picture of him. After that, you've got to go back to sea.
I share your admiration, but just a note on the statistics you cite. 300 is roughly the number of people who have sailed around the world alone, period. Non-stop, the number is far, far smaller. Probably no more than a few dozen. Highlights just what a feat Knox-Johnston achieved.
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