Today is the anniversary of Sir Chay beginning westabout voyage
Today marks marks 40 years since Sir Chay Blyth began his non-stop solo circumnavigation against the prevailing winds and currents.
292 days miles later Sir Chay arrived in the UK to a hero’s welcome in his 59ft ketch British Steel, having become the first person to sail around the world ‘the wrong way’.
The Times described the voyage as ‘the most outstanding passage ever made by one man alone.’
Born in Hawick, Scotland in 1940, where a street is now named after him, Sir Chay first made his name in 1966 rowing across the Atlantic in a 20ft open dory with Captain John Ridgway, while serving in the army.
In 1968 he and Ridgway entered the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, in which Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first man to sail non-stop around the world, despite having no previous sailing experience.
While leading the race a problem with the generator on his 30ft sloop, Dytiscus III, forced Sir Chay to stop in Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic, where a cargo ship captain fixed the problem.
This outside assistance disqualified him from the race, but he continued sailing.
Sir Chay was forced to end his voyage in East London, South Africa, as his boat continued to deteriorate, but he decided that he would continue sailing in a better boat.
And on October 18 1970 he set sail again from Southampton.
His self-steering capitulated off Cape Horn, forcing him to hand-steer for more than 20,000 miles and he was honoured with a CBE upon his arrival.
He said: ‘People often describe the achievements of my life in terms of bravery, but I don’t see it that way.
‘For me it was always a simple matter of recognising an opportunity and taking advantage of it.
‘A lot of the adventures I’ve been involved with have been very tough. Many times I came close to death.
‘To survive those moments I needed to be resourceful. For me, courage didn’t come into it. I just happened to have the right attitude and determination to succeed once I’d set myself a challenge.’
Subsequently Sir Chay took part in many round Britain, transatlantic and round the world races, including breaking the two-handed transatlantic record in 1981.
But perhaps his greatest gift to sailing was founding the Challenge Business in 1989, which allowed ordinary people to sail around the world.
After the British Steel Challenge in 1992/1993 and two BT Global Challenge races in 1996/7 and 2000/2001, the 2004/2005 Global Challenge race was without a title sponsor and the company eventually folded, but its legacy remains today.
In 1997 Sir Chay was knighted for ‘services to sailing’.
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