Seasoned navigator, seaman and marine journalist Dag Pike, who wrote for Yachting Monthly for decades, has passed away, aged 88

With over 65 years experience in ships, sail and power boats and the author of more than 40 nautical books, Dag Pike was one of the most respected seaman in the UK.

He was perhaps best known for his record breaking Atlantic crossing with Sir Richard Branson and Sir Chay Blyth on Virgin Atlantic Challenger II in 1986.

It beat the previous trans-Atlantic speed record of 3 days, 10 hours and 40 minutes, which was set in 1952 by the American passenger liner United States.

Dag was the navigator onboard the successful 1986 attempt and was involved in the failed 1985 attempt, which saw Virgin Atlantic Challenger I sink just hours from the finish line at the Bishop Rock Lighthouse off the Isles of Scilly.

2DA4YHN RICHARD BRANSON (FRONT 2ND RIGHT) TED TOLEMAN (FRONT 2ND LEFT) AND CHAY BLYTHE (RIGHT FRONT. AND THE CREW OF VIRGIN ATLANTIC CHALLENGER AT A PRESS CONFERENCE AT THE HOLIDAY INN, PORTSMOUTH AFTER THEIR FAILED CROSS ATLANTIC BID FOR THE BLE RIBAND

Dag Pike (left) with Sir Richard Branson (2nd from right), Sir Chay Blyth (far right) and the rest of the Virgin Atlantic Challenger 1 crew. Credit: Mike Walker/Alamy Stock Photo

Sir Chay said Dag’s navigation skills during the Virgin Atlantic Challenger II record attempt stood out.

‘Our hearts only jumped once with his navigation! As we were getting close to the Isles of Scilly, we picked up the Racon Beacon on our navigation instruments, it was a big sigh of relief. It was short lived, as we closed the islands, the Racon went off the screen! Our immediate thoughts were that the nav systems had gone down! However, a few minutes later the nav instruments fired up and the beacon was on the screen flashing away. Dag had delivered on a job very well done,’ said Sir Chay.

Dag participated in several long distance record attempts including six Atlantic record attempts, and was involved in the design of cockpits and dashboards for high speed boats.

In 1964 he was involved in designing and building the first RIB.

One of four brothers, Dag Pike was born in Surrey and brought up in Tattenham Way near Banstead.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was evacuated to Cadgwith in Cornwall, where he fell in love with the sea, which became the focus of his life.

By the age of 16 he was sailing on tramp ships and experienced his first shipwreck two years later off the west coast of Scotland aboard a 6,000 tonne cargo ship.

The crew missed the vital Skerryvore Lighthouse and ended up on the rocks between Tiree and Coll on a pitch-black night.

In total, he was rescued from sea 13 times – including during another Atlantic record attempt in 1989 aboard Peter Phillips’ 80ft catamaran Chaffoteaux Challenger.

The crew of Chaffoteaux in New York

Dag Pike (second from right) with the crew of Chaffoteaux Challenger in New York. Credit: Dag Pike

‘It’s not a record I’m particularly proud of but when you try to push the boundaries of what seems possible, you don’t know where the limits are until you find them. When I first went to sea in 1950, navigation was still basic and the risks were considerably higher. However, I am still alive after being rescued 13 times so I must be doing something right,’ Dag once commented on his rescues.

By the age of 21 he had already circumnavigated the world several times in the Merchant Navy.

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By 29, he was the youngest Trinity House lighthouse tender captain before becoming an Inspector Of Lifeboats for the RNLI.

He was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation, a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology, an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute and an Associate Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society.

Dag Pike sailing as a teenager

Dag Pike sailing as a young boy. Credit: Dag Pike

In 1992, Dag Pike was involve in the Destriero project, crossing the Atlantic Ocean aboard the 220ft motor yacht in a record time of 58 hours, 34 minutes and 5 seconds, at an average speed of 53.09 knots.

At 75, Dag Pike was part of the Blue FPT crew, which won the 2008 World Offshore Powerboat Championship.

At 75, Dag Pike was part of the Blue FPT crew, which won the 2008 Round Britain Offshore Powerboat Championship. Credit: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

He won countless power boat championships throughout his life. At the age of 75, Dag Pike showed no signs of slowing down, taking part and winning the 2008 Round Britain Offshore Powerboat Championship, racing in the Greek flagged Blue FPT.

An accomplished author, Dag published his first book – Powerboats in Rough Seas – in 1974.

He went on to write over 40 more titles ranging from navigation and disasters at sea to weather analysis and cruising guides.

The managing director of Imray, Lucy Wilson said Dag worked with Imray over a number of years on a series of guides to hidden harbours around the British Isles.

‘He was a regular at our stand at the London Boat Show in its day, and his quiet humour was always welcome. We most recently discussed another book which would take him to his 50th published work. Quite an achievement in addition to his other milestones. He’ll be missed,’ she said.

For decades, he regularly contributed to Yachting Monthly, writing technical and cruising articles.

Dag was 88 when he passed away.

He leaves behind his wife, Cath.

Dag Pike: 28 January 1933-29 May 2021