Facts behind ‘mystery guest' at lunch

Andrew Bray, a former editor of Yachting Monthly and currently editor of Yachting World, was a surprise guest at a lunch last week hosted by sailing journalists from both magazines to salute and celebrate the achievements of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on what was the 41st anniversary of his historic solo, non-stop circumnavgation in 1969.

Most guests were amazed to see Andrew at the lunch. Ninety-nine days earlier he had collapsed at home after attending the London Boat Show and was taken to his local hospital in Kingston, having suffered a ‘brain bleed’. Later he was transferred to a specialist unit at St George’s Hospital Tooting, where he had an operation to remove the blood clot on his brain.

Pauil Gelder, Robin Knox Johnston and Andrew Bray

Sir Robin flanked by Yachting Monthly editor Paul Gelder and Yachting World editor Andrew Bray.

Andrew spent several weeks in intensive care, sedated and on breathing support. After some weeks he was managing to breathe by himself and received oxygen support through a tracheotomy. By mid-March he was moved to a high dependency unit and tracheotomy was removed. He had his voice back and his children could communicate without sign language.

At Easter Andrew was allowed home for a few hours. “I cannot tell you how wonderful this feels, to have the freedom to walk (or teeter) round on both feet.” he emailed friends.

But he still hasn’t been allowed behind the wheel of his Alfa-Romeo yet!

Two of his three daughters, Catherine and Charlotte, attended the lunch with Andrew. Together, with their sister Susie and brother Adam, they had nursed their father through a roller-coaster of medical nightmares.

Sir Robin told everyone at the lunch what a “thrill it is to see Andrew back in good health”.

Robin has been a steadfast friend to YM through six editors, from Des Sleightholme onwards. He was a patron of our Gipsy Moth IV campaign and guest of honour at Yachting Monthly‘s centenary birthday party in 2006 at Southampton Boat Show, days before he set off on his second circumnavigation in the Velux 5 Oceans in the Open 60, Saga.

As a memento of the lunch, Andrew Bray and Paul Gelder presented Sir Robin with special souvenir covers of Yachting World and Yachting Monthly. A third Yachting Monthly editor, James Jermain, was also at the lunch.

Appropriately,given Sir Robin’s fervent patriotism, the informal occasion was held on St George’s Day. Even more appropriately in an Indian restaurant, Mala, in St Katherine’s Dock.

When Sir Robin sailed his 32ft storm-battered ketch, Suhaili, over the finish line of the Golden Globe Race on April 22, 1969, it was – and still is – one of the greatest seafaring exploits of the 20th century. Even more remarkably, Sir Robin, now 71, remains the last Briton to win a solo non-stop round the world yacht race.

Group Photo: Sir Robin with lunch guests, including (front row): Catherine Bray, Kathleen Peyton, Maxine Heath and Charlotte Bray.