Suhaili, the first boat to ever sail non-stop around the world, has returned to Falmouth for a major re-fit

Suhaili, the first boat to ever sail non-stop around the world, has returned to Falmouth for a major re-fit. For the past 3 years she has been on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. The re-fit work will be carried out by Pendennis Shipyard, largely by the apprentices, with some help from the students of The College of Falmouth, giving both invaluable on the job training. Upon completion the celebrated yacht will be based at the new National Maritime Museum-Cornwall in Falmouth.

On April 22nd 1969, Suhaili sailed into Falmouth to complete her epic voyage. 312 days earlier she had set out, the third of nine yachts that sailed in 1968 to try to become the first to sail non-stop around the world. Described by the “Sunday Times” as a scruffy little ketch, and by others as the tortoise amongst the hares, she plugged steadily on whilst her larger, more glamorous and sponsored competitors pulled out one by one. Suhaili was the only boat to finish.

Built in India between 1963 and 1965 by her owner, Robin Knox-Johnston, then a deck officer with the British India Steam Navigation Company, and sailed home via the Cape of Good Hope, Suhaili did not look like the favourite to win the Sunday Times Golden Globe Trophy. But her rugged teak construction and lack of any sophisticated instruments or equipment proved to be her greatest advantages. Although badly damaged in a storm in the Roaring Forties of the Southern Ocean, Suhaili was bolted together again and continued for another four months in those watery Himalayas until she rounded Cape Horn into the comparatively sheltered waters of the Atlantic and her run home. Her radio broke down after 10 weeks, all the fresh water became polluted, and from then on, apart from sightings off Australia and New Zealand, she was not heard of again until she met a British tanker off the Azores.

Robin Knox-Johnston’s response to the customs officers question as to where he was from as Suhaili entered Falmouth roads was one word – “Falmouth”.

Apart from sailing back from India and around the world, Suhaili crossed the Atlantic using only 15th Century navigation instruments, which earned her owner the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of Navigation, and she sailed to Greenland in a joint climbing/sailing expedition with Sir Chris Bonington. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has also used her for extensive family cruising around the UK and Europe.

Suhaili has now returned to her spiritual home to be made ready for sea again, it is hoped that she will be ready in time to participate in the 2002 Falmouth Classic.