The First Solo World Circumnavigation Race

In 1960 the first solo sailor to circumnavigate the world was a Brit, Francis Chichester. He had instigated and won the first single crossing of the Atlantic which he did in forty days. His yacht was the Gipsy Moth 11, and he completed the voyage in 40 days, sailing east to west, against winds and currents.

Chichester then sailed in the Gipsy IV around the world, following the clipper from the UK to Australia where he stopped over for 48 days. He then continued across the Pacific, around the Cape Horn of South America and on to Plymouth – 226 sailing days. For his accomplishment, Chichester was knighted. After completing his voyage, Chichester devised an around the world solo race, sailing west to east. Nine Boats were entered into the competition in 1968, and the only one finished.

Robin Knox-Johnson, sailing in a 9,75m ketch, the Suhaili, was not the favourite. Various reasons caused the withdrawal of all the other contestants. Bernard Moitessier, the overhaul leader, decided at the last minute not to complete the race and sailed on past the finishing line to continue with his voyage and he ended up in Tahiti, preceding the accolades he would have received as the winner.

Donald Crowhurst, who never left the Atlantic, but sent in false position co-ordinates hoping to fake his win to receive the prize money he was severely in need of, finally let his conscience catch up with him and took his own life, presumably by drowning. His trimaran was found abandoned adrift in the Atlantic.

One of the other entrants, Ridgeway, was disqualified for receiving mail from after meeting up with a friend in the Atlantic contrary to the rules. Blyth, who had no sailing experience, was also disqualified for receiving aid from a cargo ship he met up with en route. Both Fougerom and King retired early due to injury and boat damage, respectively. Alex Cardozo, an accomplished Italian sailor, set sail and returned immediately as his yacht was not seaworthy. There were now only four contestants left in the race, Knox-Johnson, Moitessier, Tetley and Crowhurst. Tetley, who, if he had finished, would have had the fastest time, had to retire as his yacht sank with still 2000 km to go.

Robin Knox-Johnson

Robin Knox-Johnson sailed in a 9,75m ketch, the Suhaili, was not the favourite, but in the end, he was the only winner. He arrived back to the finishing point from where he had started, after being away for 312 days. He was the single sailor to return and claimed both prizes, a trophy for winning and BP5000 for the fasted time.


Unfortunately, Tetley, who was planning to enter the next Around the World Race, a speed challenge, was unable to raise the sponsorship he needed, and this led to a poor state of mind, and he took his own life. An iconic competition which ended in tragedy and failure for most of the competitors, and victory for the winner. The race was restaged in 1982 and this time was called the BOC Challenge Race.