The Ultimate Pioneer

Happy Birthday to Sir Robin Knox-Johnston! The silver surfer celebrates his 68th birthday on Saturday 17 March aboard his appropriately sponsored Open 60 Saga Insurance. Nearly 40 years ago, at the age of just 29, the former merchant Navy officer slipped almost unnoticed out of Falmouth harbour aboard his 32-ft ketch Suhaili with just one aim: to be the first person to sail non-stop, single-handed around the world. His voyage was packed with problems: polluted water tanks, disintegrated self-steering gear, a sheered-off tiller and a broken radio that left him out of contact for four months, famously leading The Times to prepare his obituary. Ten and a half months later, he completed his quest, sailing back into Falmouth Harbour to win the Golden Globe and take his place in the history books, three months before Armstrong first walked on the moon.

During the race, he celebrated his 30th birthday, and wrote of the occasion: ‘It does not depress me that this decade is past. I have enjoyed it and managed to do more than most people. Certainly I do not regret a day of it, although perhaps I would like to mark time at this stage for a few years. There seems to be so much left to do in life? It’s rather depressing to think that in another ten years I shall be forty, which seems middle-aged from my present position.’

Today Robin, nowSirRobin, still seems far from middle aged. Once again out there alone, he is back on the race-track and rewriting the history books by racing solo around the world, this time in the Velux 5 Oceans race. Now in the tenth week of the race, the pensioner has sailed over 23,000 miles and despite set backs at every corner, is still going strong.

Speaking about his ‘big day’ from aboard Saga, he said: ‘Everyone keeps banging on about my age, but I just don’t feel old. To have been awarded an ‘Oldie’ and have my birthday all in the same week is not making me feel any younger though! I’m just getting on with it. I’ve got so much more experience now, so that has its advantage. My age doesn’t make any difference. One thing I will of course do, is have a glass of whisky and I’ve got one last piece of my Aunt Aileen’s cake!”

Sir Robin is also hoping to have crossed the equator by his birthday, marking his return into the Northern Hemisphere. He has just over 3,000 miles to go Norfolk, Virginia, and his current ETA is March 31.