An overview of the races undertaken by Robin Knox-Johnston during his illustrious sailing career.
The Golden Globe 1967-68
In 1968 the British newspaper The Sunday Times announced the award of a trophy, the Golden Globe, for the first person to sail single handed and non-stop around the world.
Jules Verne 1993-94
Skipperd by RKJ and Peter Blake in 1993 Enza New Zealand circumnavigated the world in 74 days 22 hours 18 minutes, thus setting a new world record and gaining the Jules Verne Trophy.
In 2006 and at 67 years old, Robin Knox-Johnston completed the Velux5Oceans race on board Saga Insurance finishing fourth overall.
1970 - Ocean Spirit Middle Sea Race
Having won the two handed round Britain race, the only monohull ever to do so, she sailed to the Mediterranean and took part, as an RNSA entry, in the 1970 Middle Sea Race. A gale the second day saw all sails blown out and much time was lost in repairs which removed any chance of line honours.
1970-2002 Two Handed Round Britain Race
Two handed Round Britain Race. 1970, 74, 78, 82, 85, 90 and 02 The British isles were made to be raced around and this race, organised by the Royal Western Yacht Club, has taken place every 4 years since 1966. It is open to any craft but only two people aboard. It’s course is around the British isles starting and finishing from Plymouth, includuing St. Kilda, with stops at Cork in Eire, Barra in the Hebrides, Lerwick in the Shetland Islands, and Lowstoft. It is extremely demanding for the constant changes of weather experienced, the restriction of the nearness of land and the sheer physical effort required and is probably one of the most competitive yet enjoyable races in existence. Leslie Williams and RKJ entered Ocean Spirit in 1970 and won by two days. In 1974 RKJ teamed up with Gerry Boxall and won with “British Oxygen” by a margin of 1 hour 10 minutes from “3 Cheers” sailed by Mike McMullen and Martin Read. In 1978 RKJ teamed up with Billy King-Harman, chartered “Great Britain 11”, and 80 foot maxi, and finished 11th. 1982 saw Billy and RKJ to-gether again in “Sea Falcon” but the 17 hour rest between completing the La Rochelle to New Orleans Race and the start of the two handed race was insufficient to effect proper repairs. Torn sails meant lost time and they finished 4th. 1986 the pair returned with “British Airways” and again finished 4th. 1n 1989, RKJ teamed up with Bob Fisher in the 45 foot mono-hull sloop “Barracuda”. They won class 4th, finished 11th overall, no monohull under 60 feet beating them. Finally in 2002, entered in “Spirit” owned by American Bill Foster, a 45 foot trimaran. During an early gale off the Scillies the boat was hit by a large wave that flooded the port outrigger and the forward part of the main hull forcing retirement.
1971-1975 RORC Races
Crusade 1971 Spent the 1971 season racing aboard the 60 foot sloop “Crusade” owned by Sir Max Aitken. Admirals Cup.1973-75 Frigate and Yeoman XX Foredeck crew aboard “Frigate” a Carter designed 39 foot sloop owned jointly by Robin Aisher (skipper) and Tony Boyden. Selected for the British team and finished 2nd overall behind the German “Saudade”. Same position aboard “Yeoman XX” owned and skippered by Robin Aisher. Injured when a spinnaker pole was crashed onto head which caused a slipped disc and missed the series. RORC season 1976 More Opposition Borrowed the Miller and Whitworth designed 47 foot sloop owned by Tony Morgan and worked up a crew for the RORC series. Worst position during the season was a 3rd and class 1 win in the RORC non stop round Britain race against Quailo and Moonduster. Finished the season winning the RORC Class 1 points championship.
1971 -Ocean Spirit. Cape Town to Rio Race
Les Williams then took her to Cape Town for the inaugural Cape Town to Rio Race in 1971 where RKJ and the racing crew joined. Sailing aboard were Clement Freud as cook, Peter Blake and Billy King-Harman. Ocean Spirit took line honours by some 23 hours from the Canadian maxi “Greybeard”.
1977 - Whitbread
1977 Whitbread Race. Condor Condor surfing in the Southern Ocean Teamed up with Les Williams to jointly skipper this maxi yacht in the Whitbread Race with Peter Blake as Mate. Les skippered Legs 1 and 3, (Portsmouth to Cape Town and Auckland to Rio de Janeiro) RKJ Legs 2 and 4 (Cape Town to Auckland and Rio to Portsmouth. The carbon mast failure in the first leg meant that a handicap win under the IOR was not a possibility, but line honours were taken in Legs 2 and 4. On the 2nd Leg Condor came in ahead of Great Britain 2 by more than a day and these two boats were joined by Eric Tarbaly’s Pen Duik for the last two legs. Pen Duik had got 100 miles ahead in the north-east trades, but a high pressure system was approaching the Azores. RKJ went north-west, 120 degrees from the rhumb line to the finish, to get west of the predicted position of the high when Condor might have reached the Azores. For a couple of days the winds were very light, but as the high moved eastwards, the wind slowly came in from the west, and although she sailed twice the distance of Pen Duik, she went more than twice as fast and beat her into Portsmouth by 4 hours. Book “Last but not least” Robertsbridge.
1981-1983 Sea Falcons Races
1981-83 Sea Falcon This was my favourite racing catamaran which never really showed her true paces in races, usually due to shortage of funds and silly breakages. Her first race was the two handed transatlantic race of 1981, where a jammed forestay caused a loss of 8 vital hours and meant a weather system was missed and she finished in 4th position, but she had covered more than 370 miles in 24 hours towards the finish. An attempt on the trans Atlantic record was not successful, although a new British best of 10 days 14 hours was established. In 1982 she was then chartered to a French team lead by Pierre English, but their failure to obtain insurance without RKJ meant he had to go with them on the La Rochelle to New Orleans Race. It was not a happy experience. The French crew did not understand multihulls and insisted on sailing like a monohull and the result was a 14th finish. Turning round in 22 hours, RKJ picked up a young Frenchman, Bernard Gallay as crew and together they sailed the boat back to Plymouth for the two handed round Britain race, arriving 17 hours before the start with both mainsails torn. A 19 hour penalty was inflicted for late arrival, too much to make up in the race, but she participated anyway but lost a further 8 hours off Ireland repairing the mainsail again. Nevetheless finished 4th. 1982 Sea Falcon sailing as Olympus The Route de Rhum in 1982 followed, a French single handed trans Atlantic race from St.Malo to Guadaloupe, but having just taken the lead 5 days into the race, the batteries suddenly caught fire and it was necessary to divert to Madeira for new ones. This put the boat in 22nd position, and although she made up to 14th, a procession at the end meant this was where she finished. After laying up for the winter in Nassau she sailed to Norfolk VA, running into a hurricane off Cape Hatteras. The boat was hove to, one wave nearly capsizing her but it broke over the deck and kept her the right way up. The only consolation for the crew was that the water was at least warm! Another attempt on the Atlantic record became doomed when an Omega block, a high pressure system, straddled the whole Atlantic, and the boat covered a mere 200 miles in 16 days! To finish the year she was entered in the two handed Vilamoura Race, Robin’s wife Sue coming as crew. They were third into Vilamoura but on the return leg were run down off Cape Finisterre and Sea Falcon became a constructive total loss.
1984 British Airways Races
Route del Escrubimenta This was a new race and RKJ took only Billy King-Harman and Bernard Gallay as crew. The route went from Benalmadena via the Canaries to San Salvador and then doubled back through the channel to Santo Domingo. Electrical problems plagued the boat after the generator pushed a con rod through the side of the engine, but this did not materially slow progress, it just meant it could not be reported. Nor could weather forecasts be received. The result was the boat ran straight into a forming hurricane “Lily” and was forced to run off for 6 hours to escape its path, covering 120 miles in the time. Hurricane Lily deepened and on the passage from San Salvador struck the fleet again. This time “British Airways” was hove to and spent Christmas Day in this situation, less than 100 miles from the Liner “Norway” ex “France” which had also stopped. 1985 British Airways – Round Europe Race After the RBR, sailed to Kiel for this race. Round Denmark to Den Haag, then Dunkirk, Torbay, Lorient, Lisbon, Toulon and Porto Cervo. Finished 3rd in Class. 1985 British Airways – Monaco to New York The boat won her class of 3 yachts in this race. A 200 mile lead was whittled down to 80 miles when the top of the mast cracked about level with Block island. This race provided enough points to become the winner of the Class 2 (60 foot multihulls) Bull multihull world championship for the year. 1986 British Airways – Round Ireland Record With a crew set a new record for this course of 76 hours, 5 minutes and 34 seconds. 1986 British Airways – Carlesberg 2 handed Trans Atlantic Race Plymouth to Newport R.I. With Bernard Gallay, finished 2nd in Class, 4th overall.
1997 Atlantic Challenge
1997 – “Sapphire” The Atlantic Challenge This was a big boat race from New York to Falmouth organised jojntly by the New York Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron. The RYS chartered the 85 foot Holland designed “Sapphire” which was very quick off the wind but her shallow draft meant she did not sail to windward well. Unfortunately the normal westerly wind flow was broken up by easterlies when some 1400 miles to the finish, and needing to be back to host the fleet in Cowes, the motor was started. This was RKJ’s 20th Atlantic crossing.