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suhaili yacht built in which city

Sir Robin and Suhaili, in his own words

suhaili yacht built in which city

Sir Robin and friends set about bringing Suhaili to sailing condition three years ago. This is their story

suhaili yacht built in which city

After one solo circumnavigation, two transatlantic crossings, a voyage to Iceland and five years drying out in the clinically clean air of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s Suhaili was in need of restoration. The task of bringing her back to cruising rather than concours condition has taken three years and countless hours, by a core team of four plus friends working weekends who have been just as keen as Sir Robin to see the yacht back in good fettle again.

Suhaili’s restoration took longer than it did to build her in the first place. The biggest problem the team had was to replace all the iron fastenings holding the 1¼ inch teak planking. The fastenings were exhibiting the equivalent of ‘nail rot’ in a roof, and the tell-tale signs of weeping rust stains were clear to see inside and out. This meant stripping out the entire interior, including bulkheads, before removing 1,400 fastenings and replacing them with bronze ones – at £5 a time! It was not just the cost that caused Sir Robin to exclaim. The old iron ones proved devils to get out. “To start with, we were using a hammer and punch and found we could only remove and replace 8-10 a day,” he recalled.

“The problem lay in the way Suhaili was built,” said Sir Robin. “The Indian boat builders were still using medieval bow drills back in the 1960s, which compared to modern electric drills did not cut an accurate hole.”

The iron fastenings, hammered through the planking and ribs, tended to follow the wavy line of these holes, and 50 years later when much of their iron had wasted away, the metal would take any blows from the punch. First, they tried the latest hammer drills, but they too failed to pack the punch required, and the problem was only solved when Ian Sinclair, one of the brigade of Suhaili’s friends, brought in a compressor and used a couple of pneumatic hammer drills to attack each bolt from either side.

suhaili yacht built in which city

“Working simultaneously from inside and outside the hull, we got each one to start moving by hitting the fastenings first from one way and then the other. That did the trick, and productivity increased from eight a day to 80 a day, but the work still took two men the best part of 18 days spread over several months – and the noise is still ringing in our ears!”

If the fastenings had corroded, what about the keel bolts? They proved just as much a challenge to remove. There are 14 of them and they simply wouldn’t budge, however much hammering and leverage was applied. The answer came from an 80-year-old Bursledon shipwright who told Sir Robin of an old trick. “Drill a small hole down beside each bolt and keep pouring Sarson’s vinegar down. It must be Sarson’s – no other vinegar works,” he told them. Sir Robin and shipwright Keith Savill, who served his time at Tough Brothers at Teddington back in the 1960s, were sceptical, but they gave it a try anyway. “It worked incredibly well. How, I don’t know,” said Sir Robin. “We kept topping up the holes with vinegar for a day and left it to soak in overnight – and bingo. The next morning the bolts began to move easily. We hit them once with a club hammer, which released them from the wood and then they turned relatively easily.”

Remarkably, the first bolts to be removed showed so little corrosion that he decided to replace only one in four of them.

Suhaili’s keel was laid down in the Colaba Workshops, Bombay, back in 1963. They knew a thing or two about casting iron in those days, for although they didn’t have the expertise to cast it in one length (the keel is in two sections dogged together in the middle) the foundry men knew all about adding oil during the cooling process, which penetrates the metal to inhibit rusting later in life. Indeed, Suhaili’s 2¼ ton keel shows very little pitting after 53 years.

Robin and his team also took the precaution of replacing Suhaili’s original iron floors, and in doing so, lowered the companionway by two inches to increase the headroom in the cabin.

Indian teak

Back in the 1960s, Indian teak was in plentiful supply, and used for her entire construction; keelson, planking, frames, deck and cabin top. Her 1¼in thick planking weighs 6 tons alone, so it is not surprising perhaps that Suhaili floated 2in below her marks when first launched in 1965. But it is wonderful wood to work with, and after stripping the entire hull, the sanding down to prepare for new paint brought the teak back to a silk-smooth finish and a lovely oily feel to the hand.

Sir Robin recalled: “The Indian craftsmen used 19th Century hand-tools to shape the wood, and we would watch, fascinated, as the adze, handled so casually, produced as fine a scarph as any modern plane.”

What interested Keith Savill most was how the Indians sealed the plank seams. “They used a wooden plane to cut a central rebate along the top and bottom edges of each plank, then poured some medieval black gooey mix along the top joint to act as a caulking, which has kept the water out for 50 years. That’s longer than any modern caulking compound is likely to last.”

The keel to keelson joint, together with the forefoot, which had caused some leaking in the past, was sheathed in glassfibre, and then faired with epoxy filler prior to the undersides being given three coats of Coppercoat epoxy antifouling. “We tried Coppercoat on our Clipper Race training yachts last year and found it very effective, so why not try it on Suhaili too?” said Sir Robin of his company Clipper Venture’s fleet of round-the-world race yachts. The coating has been so successful that it’s now used on the whole of the Clipper Race fleet.

Sir Robin used Hempel Primer Undercoat and Brilliant White gloss for the topsides again, after a French yachtsman mistook Suhaili for a plastic replica when she was last painted. “He insisted that she was glassfibre and remained convinced until I took him below decks to see the planking and ribs. I took his confusion as something of a compliment to the finish we achieved,” Sir Robin said with a laugh. Seeing her now back in the water with freshly painted livery, the same smooth, high gloss finish is likely to fool others into thinking the same.

There is not too much varnish work on Suhaili. The natural look is restricted to her original hatches on foredeck and main companionway, kingpost and raised toe rail amidships, which was replaced during the restoration to solve a deck leak issue. These were given several coats of Le Tonkinois Vernis No 1, a natural oil varnish used on the Cutty Sark. “I discovered it during my time as a Trustee of the ship. It is both hard-wearing and long-lasting, and because of the natural oil, it has particularly good adhesion to teak,” he said.

Varnishing the toe rail and companionway hatch, this product was certainly easy to apply and we got a good finish because the varnish’s extended drying time kept a wet edge, so that brush strokes blended in seamlessly. The minimum overcoat period is 24 hours, and longer in colder conditions. Despite this drying time, which takes the rush out of applying it well, this varnish does turn to jelly quite quickly, so we always decanted just the amount we needed into a plastic container, and kept the lid on the tin firmly sealed.

Sir Robin has another tried-and-tested trick, this time for cleaning teak decking. “I don’t like scrubbing or abrading the deck in any way because, over the years, this simply wears the wood away,” he said. Instead, he uses salt water and a soft brush to keep the green mould at bay, and a diluted oxalic acid wash to bring the teak back to its original colour. This was one of the last jobs to be done after Suhaili was re-launched last September, and looking at three years of mould and dirt that had become impregnated into the wood, there were several sceptics among us. But yes, the salt water did kill the green, and the oxalic acid, applied with a paintbrush, did restore the teak planking to a sun-bleached light brown.

Suhaili is on her third set of masts. Her first mainmast broke in Durban during the yacht’s delivery from India to the UK in 1966 and was replaced with a hollow spar. The heavy mizzen mast was replaced before setting out on the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in 1968 with another hollow section, and the original still stands as the flagpole at Benfleet YC. Suhaili was later rolled and dismasted in 1989 when caught in a storm mid-way across the Atlantic, while Sir Robin was returning from his ‘Columbus voyage’ to prove the accuracy of a mariner’s astrolabe. She was re-rigged with a set of Sparlight alloy masts which remain in good order.

Photographic reference

suhaili yacht built in which city

Below decks, at the time of writing, is still ‘work in progress’. The original interior was cut out carefully and put in store to act as templates for the new fit-out, but for some reason that still baffles Sir Robin and Keith Savill, nothing seemed to fit back as it should. Luckily we have all of Sunday Mirror photographer Bill Rowntree’s archive, taken before and immediately after the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, to provide pictorial reference, and with a mix of these and Sir Robin’s recollections of what went where, Keith has rebuilt Suhaili’s interior, largely as it was.

First he had to put in a new floor and sole bearers, before he and Sir Robin sketched out the interior plan in pencil on the white primered cabin sides. The problem was that not everyone realised the importance of this graffiti art, and it was difficult to stop grandson Ralph Knox-Johnston and apprentice Andrew Shrimpton from keenly covering them with another coat of primer!

Two additions to Suhaili’s original plan has been the inclusion of two fixed berths in the forepeak where sails were once stored, and a door to the heads to give female occupants a degree of privacy. For the moment, a toolbox jammed against the door has to suffice as a lock, but the fixed berths, with stowage beneath, now replace two folding pipe-cots that Sir Robin never liked.

Her engine, a Perkins Prima M50 50hp diesel, started on the button despite the dirt, dust and rust deposits that have built up in the engine enclosure beneath the companionway. This is Suhaili’s third engine and was fitted in 1988. Once the initial plume of back smoke had dissipated, the engine ran smoothly enough and is likely to last a few more years. Here previous motors were BMC Captains – marinised versions of the 4-cylinder diesels used to power London taxis. The first gave up the ghost during the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, and the second, paid for by The Sunday Mirror in an effort to hurry Sir Robin to London to meet his sponsorship commitments after the race, lasted 19 years. Sir Robin is hoping the current Perkins will still be purring three decades on, when he and Suhaili will be guests of honour at the start of the 2018 Golden Globe Race in Falmouth, marking the 50th anniversary of his departure in the Sunday Times race.

The deckhead has been painted with white Dulux Bathroom water-based matt paint, which has a mould inhibitor within the mix, while the rest of the insides have now been given a gloss finish using the same Hempel Brilliant White as on the topsides. A compact charcoal burning stove now resides in the main cabin to keep the boat warm and dry during the winter.

There is still the matter of re-wiring the boat and replacing the tiller, the third one in her life, which is gently rotting away from the tip back.

Certainly she is a good, solid boat with a pedigree and history that is worth preserving, though not everyone thought so during her restoration. During Suhaili’s long stay on hard standing at the top of Portsmouth Harbour, one sceptic, looking at her anonymous stripped-down hull, called out to the team: “She’s hardly worth saving!”

Sir Robin, equally anonymous is his paint-splattered boiler suit, called back: “Well, we think she is.”

“Nah, you are wasting your money,” came the derisory reply.

“Well, one thing’s for certain: you couldn’t afford her!” retorted Robin, which drew a quizzical look from his dissenter, who walked off totally unaware of who or what he was talking to or about. “And I wasn’t about to put him straight – I left him to look us up online,” Robin laughs. The good news is that the National Historic Ships Register has finally agreed to include Suhaili on its list of vessels worthy of being saved for posterity. For years, the lower limit had been set at 33ft. Suhaili’s hull length (without spars) fell 7in short, but following a campaign to have this famous yacht included, Martyn Heighton, Director of the Register, wrote shortly before his untimely death in November that with Sir Robin’s blessing, Suhaili will now be included in the Historic National Fleet.

In Sir Robin’s own words…

suhaili yacht built in which city

“Yes, there is still work to be done, but I am very fond of her. She has been part of my life since I was 23. I couldn’t imagine life without her, and getting her back sailing is when she is looked after best. She doesn’t like going to windward, but then neither do I. She’s an old design; not a fast boat, but she is very seaworthy.

We developed Suhaili ’s Bermudian ketch rig ourselves, after the original ERIC plans supplied by a company in Poole failed to include a detailed rigging plan. The rig plan turned out to be an ‘extra’ and with time short – we wanted to launch her before the North-East Monsoon set in – we decided it was easier to start from scratch, after consulting Douglas Phillip-Birt’s handbook The Rigs and Rigging of Yachts and Eric Hiscock’s Cruising under Sail .   I’m pleased we did because Suhaili is so well-balanced that she is able to keep to a course. If she had not been, I might not have finished the Golden Globe Race, because after my Admiral self-steering broke 1,500 miles west of Cape Horn, I relied on her ‘balance’ to get me home.

Our first event since re-launching in late 2016 was the first Hamble Classics regatta organised by The Royal Southern Yacht Club, when there was more windward work than I and Suhaili would have liked. I’m now looking forward to going cruising in her again with family and friends. We’ve just enjoyed a weekend sail to Cowes with six other yachts owned by Clipper Ventures employees. The offwind sail back to Portsmouth was enjoyable.

I’m also looking forward to 2018 and the events planned to mark the 50th anniversary of the original Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. The French National Maritime Museum is allowing Bernard Moitessier’s yacht Joshua to sail over from La Rochelle and we are likely to be joined by Francis Chichester’s Gipsy Moth IV and Alec Rose’s Lively Lady when Suhaili acts as start vessel for the 2018 Golden Globe Race.”

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Sir Robin Knox-Johnston refits his famous yacht Suhaili

Yachting World

  • March 14, 2017

Suhaili was famously the yacht first sailed non-stop around the world single-handed in the 1968-69 Golden Globe. Following a recent refit by her owner Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, she’s back on the water. Adrian Morgan went aboard

The completely refurbished Suhaili on her first outing at the 2016 Hamble Classics Regatta.

The completely refurbished Suhaili on her first outing at the 2016 Hamble Classics Regatta.

Restoring history

Today Suhaili is back in fine order after a thorough refit, much of it undertaken by the owner himself, along with friends and family and the assistance of retired shipwright Keith Savill. The hull has been completely refastened, the old interior stripped.

Sketches of what needs to be rebuilt – this one of the starboard berth – are drawn on the cabin sides

Sketches of what needs to be rebuilt – this one of the starboard berth – are drawn on the cabin sides.

“The whole thing took three years. We spent two years just getting the old bolts out,” recalls Knox-Johnston, “We never thought it would end.

“The timber was all good – hull and deck – apart from a thick coating of green slime. No, the real problem was the iron; it was Indian iron but any iron will give trouble after 50 years. Some of the fastenings were corroded to just 1mm thick.

“We had to remove them all – 1,400 of them – and replace them with bronze. To begin with we were managing eight bolts in a day using just hammers.

“Until we tried a hammer drill, and then two hammer drills, one each side. We were doing 80 a day then – we had to slow down and put in bronze or the old girl would have fallen apart.”

To release one of the original keel bolts during the restoration, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston used Sarson’s vinegar as penetrating oil

Suhaili was not recaulked, although Knox-Johnston says in retrospect it’s something he should have done. “There’s a few seeps here and there. I reckon she needs about 15 strokes a week, so it’s not serious. That’s about 1.5 gallons.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston did much of the restoration work himself, here preparing the iron keel prior to applying epoxy/fibre tape. Photo PPL

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston did much of the restoration work himself, here preparing the iron keel prior to applying epoxy/fibre tape. Photo PPL

“We stripped the interior out entirely,” he comments. “I sanded the deckhead and hull to bare wood again, and it’s primed, ready for painting.

“We kept the layout simple, just bunks, chart table and galley. Oh, and a loo. With a door this time.”

Thus stripped, she was much closer to her designed waterline at her relaunch, and proved steady and remarkably fast with sheets slightly eased, her best point of sailing.

“We also put in a few more wooden floors, as that was a problem I had on the round the world voyage. That strengthened her a bit.

The restoration of Suhaili took 140 days and well over 3,000 man hours

“So she’s much the same as she was, maybe a little stronger and certainly lighter. At the Classics regatta I reckon she was a little too light. She needs a bit more ballast to get her going.

“She’s best on a reach, not great upwind. You can’t pinch her. She’ll just stop if you do.”

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston with his daughter Sara at the helm. He has never let anyone borrow Suhaili and almost never lets anyone else helm!

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston with his daughter Sara at the helm. He has never let anyone borrow Suhaili and almost never lets anyone else helm! Photo Nick Gill

One of Suhaili ’s worst traits had always been her habit of hobby-horsing in certain conditions, especially when heavily laden. She showed no signs in the Solent that day.

A jib, single reefed main and full mizzen were sufficient. Her mizzen is far from an afterthought, and provides real drive, even more so with the huge mizzen staysail, for which conditions were too boisterous for us to set.

Three new oak floors were added during the restoration that weren’t in the original – which was why Suhaili leaked at the garboards and had to be patched during the round the world voyage with a copper tingle

Some elements of the refit are still a work in progress, the tiller being the next priority.

“The tiller isn’t the original, it’s from about 1973. It’s oak and as rotten as an apple, bits falling off all the time. It’s the next job on the list.”

As testament to her many sea miles, some items were left untouched: “We found the old penny that had jammed between the cabin top and a deck beam, which got there after we were knocked down in the Southern Ocean. We left it in situ.”

If Sir Robin Knox-Johnston was to enter the re-running of the Golden Globe race in 2018, the recently refitted Suhaili would be as strong as ever and almost certain to knock days off her 1968-69 time. “Nothing will persuade me to do it again,” was the gist of his response to that suggestion.

Suhaili ’s rig is the one she was fitted with after being dismasted in 1990, when Knox-Johnston was rolled mid-Atlantic, and sailed to the Azores under jury rig

Suhaili's cockpit

Suhaili’ s cockpit is very small, with a breakwater to protect against waves from following seas. A steel-framed pushpit extends beyond the rudder to provide a sheeting point for the mizzen boom, and from which the yacht’s original wind vane self-steering system was hung. Knox-Johnston nicknamed the wind vane ‘The Admiral’ because, like some flag officers, the control system of blocks and pulleys caused some considerable friction. Photo PPL.

Deck capstan

The original deck capstan was purchased from Glasgow-based chandlers Simpson-Lawrence, and shipped out to India during the yacht’s construction. Photo PPL

Suhaili teak hatches

Suhaili ’s original hatches were revarnished at home over the winter. The entire boat was originally built of teak. Photo PPL

Tufnol sheet blocks

The original Tufnol sheet blocks still working well after 50 years. Photo PPL

Suhaili's Bronze highfield lever

The original bronze Highfield lever on the foredeck releases the forestay and jib halyard sufficiently to allow the sail to be pulled inboard and unhanked from the headstay, so nobody has to climb out on to the bowsprit.

Suhaili fisherman's anchor

The original fisherman’s anchor (and chain) came from the SS Sirdana , a deck passenger and cargo ship from the British India Line on which Knox-Johnston served while stationed in India. Photo PPL

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, born 1939, is Britain’s most celebrated yachtsman. His 1968-69 voyage secured his place in the history of yachting, but he also led teams in Admiral’s Cup, Whitbread and Round Britain races, and co-skippered the Jules Verne record-holder Enza in 1994.

1969: Robin Knox-Johnston relaxes to enjoy his first pint of beer in 313 days, after becoming the first man to sail solo non-stop around the globe.

1969: Robin Knox-Johnston relaxes to enjoy his first pint of beer in 313 days, after becoming the first man to sail solo non-stop around the globe.

He sailed single-handed round the world a second time – in the 2007 Velux 5 Oceans Race , at the age of 68 – was third in class in the 2014 Route du Rhum, and now runs Clipper Ventures, which organises the Clipper Round the World Race.

After retiring from sailing for a while, he was behind the building of Troon, Mayflower, Mercury and St Katharine Dock marinas.

He is patron of the Cruising Association, elected a Younger Brother of Trinity House, president of the Little Ship Club, and honorary member of at least a dozen yacht clubs worldwide.

He has been voted the YJA Yachtsman of the Year four times, he won the Royal Institute of Navigation gold medal in 1992 and was knighted in 1995.

Suhaili specifications

LOA: 13.41m (44ft)

Hull length: 9.88m (32ft 5in)

LWL: 8.53m (28ft)

Beam: 3.37m (11ft 1in)

Draught: 1.67m (5ft 6in)

Displacement: 9,876kg (9.72 tons)

Sail area: 61.8sq m (666sq ft)

  • 1. Introduction
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Suhaili – Sir Robin’s trusty ketch is relaunched following restoration

  • Katy Stickland

After three years' work, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has now relaunched his 32-foot Suhaili. The legendary sailor spent hours restoring the boat which took him around the world.

Suhaili

The renovated Suhaili

“No one would call Suhaili a greyhound, but she is solid, strong and a very good seaboat,” writes  Sir Robin Knox-Johnson about the Bermuda ketch.

Arguably one of the most famous yachts in sailing history, Suhaili is the first boat to ever sail non-stop around the world.

The 32-foot boat has now been lovingly restored by Sir Robin at a Solent boatyard.

Winning the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race on board Suhaili on 22 April, 1969 propelled the Putney-born sailor into the limelight – he was the first man to sail solo, non-stop around the world.

Robin Knox-Johnston on board Suhaili as he finishes the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race

Robin Knox-Johnston on board Suhaili as he finishes the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. Credit: Bill Rowntree / PPL

It also marked the start of an incredible career which included further racing records, yachtsman of the year accolades, a knighthood, patronages of sailing organisations all around the world, and 20 years of inspiring amateur sailors to follow his experience.

The Clipper Race Chairman originally built Suhaili on a slipway in Bombay Docks in 1963.

Sir Robin was serving as 2nd Officer on a deck passenger ship trading between Bombay and Basra when he came up with the concept for the Bermudian ketch.

Suhaili becomes the first yacht to sail non-stop around the world

Suhaili becomes the first yacht to sail non-stop around the world

This week, more than half a century after construction began, Suhaili has been relaunched.

The teak ketch will have one of its first outings when Sir Robin competes in the Hamble Classic Regatta on 24-25 September.

The restoration of the William Atkins’ designed yacht comes as preparations continue for the 2018 Golden Globe Race.

It is being staged to mark the 50th anniversary of the legendary original.

Suhaili Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

Suhaili at full sail

Entrants must depart Falmouth, England on 14 June 2018 and sail solo, non-stop around the world, via the five Great Capes and return to Falmouth.

Those taking part have to sail without modern technology or the benefit of satellite based navigation aids, using same type of yachts and equipment that were available to the competitors in that first race.

Suhaili Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

Suhaili – “solid, strong and a very good seaboat”

Competitors must sail in production boats between 32ft and 36ft overall designed prior to 1988. The vessel must have a full-length keel with rudder attached to their trailing edge.

There will be a prize of £75,000 for the first yacht to finish before 22 April 2019.

Raymarine/YJA Yachtsman of the Year Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston wins top sailing accolade

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston won the prestigious title of Raymarine/YJA Yachtsman of the Year

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suhaili yacht built in which city

Interview: Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on sailing Suhaili again

Sir robin knox-johnston is going cruising again. he tells emma bamford about restoring suhaili – and plans for a perfect cruising boat..

Photo: Joe McCarthy

From the ground, divested of her sails and bowsprit, the 32ft long-keeler looks like any other old boat on the hard of any yard – brick-red antifouling, fresh coat of white paint on her topsides, stripe of peeling blue masking tape between. It is only when you look closely at her owner – dressed as many a British yacht owner in faded polo T-shirt and paint-spattered deck shoes – that the identity of this boat becomes apparent. This is Suhaili , the first boat to ever circumnavigate the world non-stop; and this is her owner, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

It is remarkable to think that such a doyen of the sailing world would be in the yard, getting grubby working on his boat. Isn’t Suhaili a national treasure, for one, protected for the nation, like the Cutty Sark or Mary Rose , in the purified air of a museum somewhere?

For a while she was: the 32ft bermudan-rigged, teak-built ketch (44ft length over spars) went on display at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich in 1997 but her planking started to shrink in the controlled atmosphere so Robin removed her in 2002.

Joe McCarthy

For the past three years she has been on the hard of a Solent boatyard, slowly being restored back to her former glory – note, not modernised, but restored – ready for her owner to take her cruising again.

He does most of the work on Suhaili himself, with help from a shipwright and his grandson. When we arrive at the boat, he shouts from the hard: “I can’t hear the sander!”

“I’m sanding by hand!” comes the replying shout from inside the boat by Ralph, 16 – who certainly has enough dust covering him to prove it.

Suhaili is the only boat that Robin owns now, although he is contemplating buying another (we’ll come to that later).

He and a couple of friends built her in the early 1960s in a Bombay dockyard. “It took foreeever,” he says, stretching out the word to add emphasis. Her keel was laid in 1963 and she was finished in 1965, and sailed first, with a crew of three, comprising his brother Christopher and Heinz Fingerhut, to South Africa. Then, after her skipper took a break to earn some much-needed cash in Durban by stevedoring and captaining a trading coaster, they sailed her on to Britain. Following his groundbreaking circumnavigation in the Sunday Times -sponsored Golden Globe race in 1968/9 she would go on to be cruised quietly by Knox-Johnston through the 1970s and 1980s.

Joe McCarthy

And now she’s back in the yard, being put into tip-top condition ready for the start of the Golden Globe Race 2018, the event being held to mark the 50th anniversary of what Robin acknowledges is probably his biggest achievement – being the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world.

I’m not using journalistic licence when I say that you wouldn’t know, looking up at her on her stand on the hard, what this yacht was.

It is only when we climb up the ladder that we see how dated she is. The cockpit, by today’s standards of cruising boats, is remarkably exposed. There’s a flat teak deck, with a square pit in the centre, deep enough for sitting. There is no protective coaming, no sprayhood, no steadying grab-rail within easy reach of the helm.

Robin Knox-Johnston

The sheet winches – no self-tailers here – are the originals, embossed with ‘Tuff Fittings’, and they are incredibly small, perhaps only four inches in diameter, and were fitted in the 1960s. “I went to Beaulieu Boat Jumble and picked up a spare,” he tells me. “It goes in my Suhaili box. There’s all kinds of things in there.”

The idea of Sir Robin riffling through odds and sods at the boat jumble is incongruous but actually here, sitting with him on the coach roof in his paint-speckled shoes in the August sunshine, I can well believe it – just another bearded bloke looking for bits for his boat.

“I wouldn’t change anything about Suhaili . Why not just keep her as she was?” he asks. “We got an awful lot right when we built her.”

Joe McCarthy

Much of the work to date has been in replacing the fastenings. “We stripped her out so I could renew all the fastenings – 1,400 of them – and replace them with bronze. That took time. I was doing about eight a day and then we developed a method and then that was 80 a day. Much nicer! We put new keel bolts in and we’ve been rebuilding her quietly ever since.”

The boat looks incredibly small inside, stripped back, the original wood exposed by all of Ralph’s sanding. “He’s cottoned on to the value of money now,” Robin says. Payment in pork pies is no longer enough.

Robin Knox-Johnston

None of his five grandchildren has particularly taken to yachting as “their sport” – certainly not in the way that their grandfather did, who has made it his life’s work. There can’t be a sailor in the land who hasn’t heard of RKJ, as he signs off his emails.

Born in March 1939, in Putney, London, the eldest of four brothers, he went to sea in the Merchant Navy in 1957 as a deck officer. In 1962 he married his childhood sweetheart, Suzanne, whom he had known since the age of eight (and who died in November 2003 as a result of ovarian cancer). Their one child, Sara, was born in Bombay 1963.

71860

He was made CBE in 1969; went on to success in various race campaigns; in 1994 with Peter Blake won the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest sailing circumnavigation of 74 days 22 hours 18 minutes and 22 seconds; was knighted in 1995; and named UK Yachtsman of the Year four times, ISAF World Sailor of the Year and last year Sailing Today readers voted him Sailor of the Year for competing in the Route du Rhum singlehanded race from St Malo to Guadeloupe aged 75.

In addition to patronages and presidencies of all manner of sailing and maritime-related organisations, he also founded the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, in which crews of amateurs sail, in legs, around the globe.

Robin Knox-Johnston

Others might say the Golden Globe victory was his greatest achievement, Robin says, but “in a way I think Clipper is. We have introduced nearly 5,000 people to sailing now. All of them have crossed an ocean, and about 700 have sailed around the world. Making sailing available to someone who has never been on a boat before and training them up and making them safe and getting them to cross [an ocean] – that’s quite an achievement.”

The latest Clipper Race ended a couple of weeks before we meet and it is impossible not to raise the tragedy that marred this edition, during which two members of the crew of IchorCoal , Andrew Ashman and Sarah Young, died – Andrew when he was hit by the boom or mainsheet during a reefing manoeuvre off Portugal, and Sarah when she was washed overboard in the Pacific Ocean.

“Both cases were caused by people breaking fundamental rules,” Robin says, calmly. “One being in a danger area, the other one not clipping on. We have put AIS beacons on the danbuoys now just to speed up recovery because people drift much faster than you think. You need to get them out of the water fast. If you throw a danbuoy into the water you know that’s going to be within 100m of them. It cuts down the time spent searching. [Sarah was in the water for over an hour]. Apart from that it’s just [a case of] emphasising it: always clip on.” He pauses and looks out to sea before turning back to me. “I have been through all the photos of Sarah and she was always clipped on. It was just that one time. I know they say you never speak ill of the dead but it’s true, they were both nice people. It was just tragic.”

Robin Knox-Johnston

Tragedy is one of the unfortunate aspects of sailing that there is no getting away from. The original Golden Globe race was not without its own – competitor Donald Crowhurst took his own life after becoming depressed and mentally unstable during the event. A film, The Mercy , starring Colin Firth, is slated for release early next year.

Robin gave his £5,000 race winnings away to Donald Crowhurst’s family. “They were about to lose their house.” He says he will probably go and see the film.

Robin Knox-Johnston

The anniversary race will start on 14 June 2018, the same day Robin set off. So far there are 27 entrants. The rules are strict – all skippers may use only the same type, or similar equipment and technology that was carried aboard Suhaili in 1968/9. They must carry a GPS chart plotter in a sealed box for emergency use only. Boats must be between 32ft and 36ft, built before 1988 and be of a particular construction; three replica Suhaili s are being made. The course will be mainly in the 40-50° band of latitude, going westabout, and there will be a gate in Storm Bay, Tasmania, where competitors must drift for approximately 90 minutes, meet the race director, media, and family, and pass over film/ photos /letters, then sail back through the ‘gate’ without touching shore, or any person, or being resupplied.

Robin Knox-Johnston

“I think it’s a cracking idea,” Robin says of the event. “It’s back to real adventuring.”

Solo circumnavigating, he says, is not such an adventure now as it once was.

“It has been done. It’s like climbing Mount Everest. It is still the ultimate but it’s not the same as when Hillary and Tenzing did it. The adventure has gone out of it a bit. Modern equipment has made it a lot safer.”

Robin Knox-Johnston

Although he will take Suhaili to the start, he is not tempted to circumnavigate again. “I might do the next Route du Rhum but round the world? I don’t think so.”

Instead, his eye is firmly on cruising. “I do not do enough cruising. I love cruising, particularly to places where there aren’t too many people, places like the west coast of Scotland. When I was living up there nearly 40 years ago, once you got past Tobermory you very rarely saw another yacht.”

Greenland is another favourite. “I have been up there three times, including once in Suhaili with Chris Bonington [the climber]. You might bump into the odd Inuit but it’s just bare. It is Scotland’s rugged sister – and the midges in Greenland are even worse than the Scottish ones! You wear a mosquito net when you go ashore.

“These are the sorts of places that appeal to me. I have to get Suhaili afloat and see if I buy another boat. I sold my [Imoca] 60,” – here he laughs – “That’s given me a tax problem because I sold her for more than she was written down for so I either pay tax or buy another boat – so I shall have to buy another boat.”

What would he get, I ask, expecting him to name some fast, engineless catamaran, like the 60ft and 70ft cats Enza, Sea Falcon and British Oxygen that he competed in.

Screen Shot 2016-09-27 at 10.48.22

And after the start of the Golden Globe, whether or not he gets the Hallberg-Rassy, what will he do with Suhaili ?

“I will potter around in her – maybe Newtown Creek.”

So if you’re in a Solent boatyard over the next couple of years, or dropping the hook in Newtown Creek or some pretty Highlands anchorage, and you notice that the boat next to you is a 32ft wooden ketch or a HR52, look closely – that white bearded skipper next to you might just be one of the most famous sailors of all time.

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Sir Robin Knox Johnston CBE

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, CBE

Award Year: 2008

NMHS Distinguished Service Award

The NMHS Distinguished Service Award has been presented each year since 1993 to recognize individuals who, through their personal effort and creativity, have made outstanding contributions to the maritime field.

In 2008, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, CBE was awarded the NMHS Distinguished Service Award.  We recognized his many accomplishments in the evening’s awards dinner journal:

On 22 April 1969, aboard his 32-foot home-built wooden boat Suhaili , Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, after 312 days at sea, became the first man ever to circumnavigate the globe non-stop and single-handed. He was the only person of the nine contestants to finish that grueling Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, and donated his prize money to the family of the contestant who perished in the attempt.

He has been described as Britain’s greatest-ever yachtsman. 25 years later, in 1994, he and Kiwi yachting legend Sir Peter Blake won the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest circumnavigation. Their time was 74 days, 22 hours, 18 minutes and 22 seconds. This was the team’s second attempt at this prize after their first one failed in 1992, when their 90-foot catamaran, Enza , was damaged.

Born 17 March 1939 in Putney in London, Knox-Johnston grew up on England’s Wirral Peninsula. He served in the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy from 1957 to 1965. Sir Robin has devoted considerable time and energy to both education and charitable work. In 1992 he was invited to become president of the Sail Training Association, where he served until 2001. During his tenure, Knox-Johnston oversaw the collection of funds to replace the STA’s vessels Sir Winston Churchill and Malcolm Miller with the new, larger brigs Prince William and Stavros S. Niarchos .

He was a trustee of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich from 1992 to 2002 and is still trustee of the National Maritime Museum-Cornwall at Falmouth, where Suhaili is berthed today. The yacht has been refitted and took part in the Round the Island Race in June 2005.

In October 2006, at the age of 67, Sir Robin embarked on another solo race around the world. He was the oldest competitor in the Velux 5 Oceans Race, challenging the very best sailors in the extreme high-performance Open 60 class. Among the many perils were storms in the Bay of Biscay and the big wind and waves of the Roaring 40’s in the Southern Ocean. After months of intensity and hardship, on 4 May 2007, Knox-Johnston successfully completed his second solo circumnavigation in his yacht SAGA Insurance , finishing the race almost 200 days faster than in 1969.

Knox-Johnston has been recognized with multiple awards, fellowships and honorary degrees. In 1969 Knox-Johnston was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) and he was knighted in 1995.

Knox-Johnston has also had a successful business career. In 1995 he created, and still chairs, Clipper Ventures, a prominent sports marketing outfit dedicated to running and promoting world-class marine events. In 1996 Sir Robin established the first Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and has since worked with the Clipper Ventures company as chairman to progress the race to higher levels every year.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has a lengthy bibliography, promoting yachting through his many popular books, particularly A World of My Own , History of Yachting , and Cape Horn . A new book, Force of Nature (Penguin Books, 2008) is Sir Robin’s firsthand account of his extraordinary return to the ultra-competitive, punishing world of single-handed offshore racing. The book recounts his harrowing second solo circumnavigation of the world aboard the yacht SAGA Insurance .

Categories: Sailor/Racing

Classic Sailboats

William Atkin SUHAILI

suhaili yacht built in which city

Sail Number: 2400Y

  Type: Aux. Ketch

LOA: 44’0″ / 13.41m – LOD: 32’0″ / 9.80m – LWL: 28’0″ / 8.53m – Beam: 11’1″ / 3.37m – Draft: 5’6″ / 1.67m – Displacement: 21,772 lbs / 9,876 kg Ballast: – Sail Area: 665 sq ft / 61.8 m2 – Current Owner: Robin Knox-Johnston – Original Owner: Robin Knox-Johnston – Year Launched: 1965 (keel was laid in 1963, finished in 1965) – Designed by: William Atkin – Built by: Bombay, India – Design Number: – Hull Material: Wood  

Historical:

Suhaili was built in Bombay with the help of Royal Bombay Yacht Club, India in 1963. She follows plans designed by William Atkins for “Eric” in 1923. Her design is based on the Norwegian sailing lifeboat designs of Colin Archer.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston first made history in 1969 when he won the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race on board his 32-foot LOD Bermudian ketch Suhaili, setting the record as the first man to sail solo, non-stop around the world, thus kicking off an incredible career during which further racing records, multiple yachtsman of the year accolades, a knighthood, patronages of sailing organisations all around the world, and twenty years of inspiring amateur sailors to follow his experience, have followed.

The Wall of Remembrance – The Owners, Crew & Notable Guest:

Owner/Guardian: (1963 – Present) Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

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Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

SIR ROBIN WAS THE FIRST TO SAIL SINGLE HANDED AND NON-STOP AROUND THE WORLD BETWEEN 14 JUNE 1968 AND 22 APRIL 1969.

More than 50 years have gone by since Sir Robin Knox-Johnston made history by becoming the first man to sail solo and non-stop around the globe in 1968-69.

One of nine sailors to compete in the Times Golden Globe Race, Sir Robin set off from Falmouth, with no sponsorship, on 14 June 1968.

With his yacht Suhaili packed to the gunwales with supplies he set off on a voyage that was to last just over ten months. He arrived back in Falmouth after 312 days at sea, on 22 April 1969, securing his place in the history books.

Sir Robin wanted everyone to have the opportunity to experience the challenge and sheer exhilaration of ocean racing because there are far more flags of success on the top of Mount Everest than on the high seas.

Among many other races, in 2007 Sir Robin has circumnavigated again in the VELUX 5 OCEANS race at the age of 68. For his latest challenge, Sir Robin will compete in the 10th anniversary edition of the Route de Rhum race which starts in St Malo, France, on 2 November 2014, and finishes at the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

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The Golden Globe

In 1968 the British newspaper The Sunday Times announced the award of a trophy, the Golden Globe, for the first person to sail single handed and non-stop around the world.

The longest non-stop voyage until then was achieved by Sir Francis Chichester in 1966-67, when he circumnavigated the world with one stop in Australia. His boat had needed a major re-fit halfway, and no one was certain a yacht could be kept serviceable for 30,000 miles, let alone survive the conditions to be expected, nor whether a human could keep going that long alone.

Nevertheless, a solo non-stop circumnavigation was the one great voyage left to be made.

On returning to the UK from India in Suhaili RKJ went back to sea as 1st Officer on the liner Kenya whilst Suhaili was laid up at Benfleet and put up for sale. However, Chichester’s voyage planted the seed for a non-stop attempt. Efforts to find a sponsor for a Colin Mudie designed 56 foot steel yacht failed, but by this time the idea and become an obsession. “ Suhaili ” was withdrawn from the market and a sponsor sought.

An approach to The Sunday Times lead to their refusal, but they subsequently announced the Golden Globe and that RKJ was an entrant! In all, there were 9 entrants, but because small boats sail slower than big ones, each planned to depart to suit their own schedule, and The Sunday Times was forced to announce that the start time could be between 1 June and 31 October 1968.

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Suhaili fulfilling a dream.

ATL Composites supplies the materials to recreate a legendary vessel and an epic adventure.

In a makeshift tin shed in Newcastle, NSW, marine surveyor Mike Smith is building a replica of the legendary Suhaili, the cutting ketch made famous when Robin Knox-Johnston sailed non-stop around the world to win the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race.

suhaili yacht built in which city

Suhaili Sir Robin Knox-Johnston aboard Suhaili – 50th anniversary of his record setting circumnavigation

“The original was a 32-foot (9.8-metre), nine tonne Bermudan ketch made entirely of teak, very thick 32mm planking and iron fastenings to William Atkin’s ‘ERIC’ plans and based on Norwegian sailing lifeboats by Colin Archer,” explains Mike.

“It was made in Bombay with traditional techniques using bow drills and is very heavy, but very seaworthy.”

Mike is building his own Suhaili for the modern iteration of the Golden Globe Race, revived in 2018 by Don McIntyre, his dedicated team of four and thousands of volunteers.

A 30,000 nautical mile, east-around, solo circumnavigation via the five Great Capes with four rendezvous gates and a deadline date for finishing, the Golden Globe Race starts and finishes in France.

According to the race rules, entrants must be between 32 and 36-feet overall (9.75 to 10.97m) designed prior to 1988 with a full-length keel with rudder attached to their trailing edge.

Competitors are limited to using equipment similar to what was available to Sir Robin in that first race. That means sailing without modern technology or the benefit of satellite-based navigation aids.

Mike has been working on his incarnation of Suhaili for six years so far and was unable to complete the vessel in time to participate in the 2022-23 edition, which departed Les Sables-d’Olonne, France on 4 September 2022.

suhaili yacht built in which city

The race runs every four years and Mike has his eye on the 2026 event, but he is aiming to get Suhaili on the water by the end of this year.

“In 2024, I will be testing and optimising her by sailing locally, most likely in offshore races such as the Gosford to Lord Howe Race, maybe circumnavigate New Zealand.

“I need to harden myself up as well as the boat,” he jokes, “And a Trans-Tasman would give me experience of diverse conditions.”

Building a replica is within race rules, and Mike is already well advanced. “I’m building my boat a bit differently,” he says.

“The original Suhaili was a cutter, and very heavy, made of teak and iron. My boat is built of Western Red Cedar, strip planked, and plywood on the bulkheads and decks. It is going to look very different, more modern, with two full-length sails and clean, basic, spartan.”

For the rig, Mike worked with yacht rigging expert, David Lambourne for the best arrangement of his Dacron sails.

“She’s rigged for single-handed sailing. My background is in multihull sailing and I know how important ease of use, strength and reliability can be.”

Equally important, the materials and products he has selected to build Suhaili.

Working with Mac Dalton from ATL Composites, Mike specified 200grm plain weave E-fibreglass, KINETIX 246 TX resin, with a variety of hardeners for laminating, and Techniglue R60, a pre-filled structural adhesive for bonding applications.

“R60 is one of our most popular products and used by professional and amateur builders alike. Available with a choice of hardener speeds, and the thixotropic nature of the adhesive, it provides good gap-filing and hold-up on vertical surfaces,” states Mac.

suhaili yacht built in which city

Technirez 2517 a general-purpose epoxy manufactured by ATL Composites was also blended with WEST SYSTEM 413 Microfibre Blend for other bonding applications on the project.

Working late into the evenings and early mornings, most of the weekend, Mike has put the ATL products to the test.

“In Newcastle, we experience a vast range of temperatures,” he says, “from minus two to 42 C, which is very challenging for resins. I chose slow hardeners because I’m working by myself.

“I’ve worked with ATL products for decades at Boatspeed and on other projects. They’re consistent, reliable, user-friendly, they come with accurate instructions, and the team always offers great support. If I order products, they arrive in a day or two, which is fantastic!”

What possessed him to set his sights on competing in what must certainly be the toughest challenge a sailor could embark upon?

“I grew up in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and in summer we went camping on the Wild Coast. With that pounding surf and distant horizon, I always dreamt of sailing out to sea, way off in the distance to Antarctica. I always wanted to do something crazy like this.”

Though modest about his skills, Mike is a step above the average amateur builder, having worked on many other projects and currently working as a Marine Surveyor and Insurance Assessor.

“It’s taken so long because I can’t throw all my resources at it,” he says. “I work on it four to six hours a day, but I have to work smart and not get tired, or I’ll do something stupid to the boat or myself.

“I’ve got a way to go yet. I want to have it in the water this year which I think is quite achievable.”

suhaili yacht built in which city

This ambitious labour of love, a project of a lifetime, revives the spirit of adventure and must keep him safe and secure for 30,000 nautical miles in often brutal seas.

“Sailing is a technical challenge as much as it’s a physical challenge. You have your preparation, your planning, your skill and of course, the weather, which we can’t do anything about but navigate through it.

“I will be alone at sea for 200 days, perhaps 250, with just charts and a sextant, and radio weather. I have to think of my strength, physical and mental, my navigation skills and nutrition. I’m currently experimenting with different foods. I love bread, so I have to work out how to bake it onboard.”

Reflecting on the project and the eight years it will take him, Mike says the only thing he would do differently is “build an insulated shed!”

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Latest News: €213 Million Golden Globe Race 2022 Media Value

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Stepping back to the Golden Age of Solo Sailing

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In 1968, nine men started the first solo non-stop sailing race around the world. Only one finished.

  • The History

In August 1966, British yachtsman Francis Chichester set out from England to sail solo around the world to Australia and back via the five Great Capes in the 16m Gipsy Moth IV in a bid to beat the Clipper ship records.

He completed the circumnavigation in 226 days (274 days including the stopover in Sydney) to set a record for the fastest voyage around the world in a small boat.

A diverse adventurer and excellent navigator, Chichester attracted huge interest thanks to the exclusive coverage provided by The Sunday Times newspaper. Returning triumphant on 28th May 1967, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and became not only a British hero but an inspiration to many more who would follow in his wake.

One sailor, one boat, facing the great oceans of the world.

There was now just one last challenge left to man: To sail solo non-stop around the globe, and a number of sailors began to plan.

In March 1968, the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race was announced – the first-ever attempt to sail solo non-stop around the world. There was no entry fee, virtually no rules nor qualification requirements because most of those who become entrants were already well on the way with their planning to attempt this challenge anyway.

By offering a trophy for the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world via the five great capes and a £5000 UK Pounds Price for the fastest time, the Paper created an instant race and a great story to increase circulation.

Nine colourful characters with varying sailing skills headed off at various times in a strange collection of yachts.

suhaili yacht built in which city

Name / NationalityBoatPrevious sailingStartOutcomeFinish
 John Ridgway 30 foot (9.1 m) Westerly 30 sloopFastnet Rock single-handed (and rowed the Atlantic)Inishmore 1 June 1968RetiredRecife, Brazil 21 July 1968
 Chay Blyth 30 foot (9.1 m) Kingfisher 30 sloopNo sailing at all (but rowed the Atlantic)Hamble 8 June 1968RetiredEast London 13 September 1968
Robin Knox-Johnston 32 foot (9.8 m) ketchIndia to UK in  Falmouth 14 June 1968 Falmouth 22 April 1969
Loïck Fougeron 30 foot (9.1 m) gaff cutterMorocco to PlymouthPlymouth 22 August 1968RetiredSaint Helena 27 November 1968
Bernard Moitessier 39 foot (12 m) ketchTahiti–France, via Cape HornPlymouth 22 August 1968RetiredTahiti 21 June 1969
 Bill King 42 foot (13 m) junk schoonerTransatlantic, West IndiesPlymouth 24 August 1968RetiredCape Town 22 November 1968
Nigel Tetley 40 foot (12 m) trimaran1966 Round Britain RacePlymouth 16 September 1968Sank, rescuedNorth Atlantic 21 May 1969
Alex Carozzo 66 foot (20 m) ketchTrans-Pacific, 1968  Cowes 31 October 1968RetiredPorto 14 November 1968
Donald Crowhurst 40 foot (12 m) trimaranDay / weekendTeignmouth 31 October 1968Died by suicideNorth Atlantic 1 July 1969

There was only one finisher – Robin Knox-Johnston and his 9.75m traditional ketch-rigged double-ended yacht Suhaili who, at the start, were considered the most unlikely boat and given no chance.

The rest either sank, retired or committed suicide.

French entrant Bernard Moitessier famously continued sailing his sturdy yacht Joshua, rounded Cape Horn, then continued on for a second circuit of the Southern Ocean and ended up in Tahiti to “save my soul” as he put it – rather than heading back to civilization, a possible winner and certain fame.

Donald Crowhurst sailed an imaginary voyage around the world, whilst actually sailing in circles in the Atlantic Ocean. He simply transmitted fake position reports hoping to fool the world. Ultimately, this deception played out a twisted route in his mind, all described with great detail in his log to the point he finally slipped over the side in an apparent suicide, his trimaran found drifting, abandoned.

The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race quickly became a legend to sailors and non-sailors alike with its triumph and tragedies and epic human endeavour in facing the unknown. It remains so today.

Later, the Race would inspire the formation of the BOC Challenge Around Alone and Vendée Globe solo round the world races.

To learn more about this fascinating story, go to Wikipedia , watch the documentary ‘ Deep Water ‘ or read these excellent books: A World of My Own by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier, A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols.

In 2017, the Hollywood film The Mercy was released and tells the story of Donald Crowhurst (played by Colin Firth).

All historic video footage and photos of the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race are the exclusive copyright of PPL PHOTO AGENCY and may not be reproduced in any format for any purpose under any condition and may not be retransmitted at any time without the written permission of the rights holder. For video or image licensing, please email:  [email protected]  or visit  www.pplmedia.com .

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Another circumnavigation for Suhaili

  • June 26, 2003

Sir Robin Knox Johnston and Suhaili together again

 Sir Robin Knox Johnston stepped aboard his trusty ketch Suhaili for another circumnavigation on Saturday June 21st. Suhaili sailed down to the Solent from her home at the National Maritime Musem in Falmouth to participate in the annual Round the Island race. She joined 1,594 other boats for the 67th edition of the Island Sailing Club’s 50 mile classic, first run in 1931. Aboard with Sir Robin was Yachting Monthly’s Mike Kopman.

“We had a great start at 8 o’clock, with the kite up and drawing right off the line. Suhaili’s downwind performance was quite surprising and we were soon amongst the tail enders of the class ahead of ours. The crew of every passing, or passed, yacht greeted Suhaili and her famous skipper with the utmost admiration and respect. Hats were raised and salutes were exchanged. There was little doubt that despite her lengthy sabbatical, Suhaili was still instantly recognisable as one of the most famous yachts in the world.” Unfortunately, the fleet turned hard on the wind at the Needles and Suhaili began to show the limits of her 80 year old design. “By the time we reached Ventnor the wind was dying fast and the tide had turned against us. We short tacked right in shore, trying to stay out of the worst of the tide, but we were only making about 100 meters on each tack.” Unfortunately Suhaili did not manage to complete the course by the 22h00 cut off. “We may not have had the fastest trip around, but it was a trip I shall not easily forget. Sir Robin’s impersonations had us in stitches (his South African accent is better than mine!), his curry accompaniment to our ham sandwiches really hit the spot, and his many incredible stories had us hanging on his every word. Spending a few hours at Suhaili’s stout tiller under his watchful eye was a real privilege.”

Despite the presence of some of world’s fastest and most glamorous yachts, the race was won for the second time by “Rosina of Beaulieu “, Jeremy Rogers’ Contessa 26. She was sailed by Jeremy’s sons Simon, Kit and David, who will return the prestigious Gold Roman Bowl to the family home in Lymington.

The Yachting Monthly Family Trophy was won by Island Sailing Club members Willem Wester (58) aboard his Contessa 33 with his wife Helleen (58), daughter Minka (31), son Robert (29) and grandson Andrew (12) in an elapsed time of 8:41:23 and corrected time of 8:21:03.

More pictures and stories at www.ybw.com/ym/roundtheisland/index.htm  

The 68th Round the Island Race will be held on 26th June 2004 – Entries close 5th June 2004

IMAGES

  1. Suhaili

    suhaili yacht built in which city

  2. Suhaili

    suhaili yacht built in which city

  3. Replica of Suhaili, the first yacht to be sailed non-stop and

    suhaili yacht built in which city

  4. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston refits his famous yacht Suhaili

    suhaili yacht built in which city

  5. Suhaili

    suhaili yacht built in which city

  6. Suhaili

    suhaili yacht built in which city

VIDEO

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  2. [ENG] SUPERYACHT HELIOS

  3. 426 City Hill Road Property Spotlight

  4. A model of Suhaili

  5. SIALIA

  6. Motor Yacht SEANNA (ex-NEWVIDA)

COMMENTS

  1. Suhaili

    Suhaili is the name of the 32-foot (9.8 m) ... Suhaili was built in Mumbai with the help of Royal Bombay Yacht Club, India in 1963. She follows plans designed by William Atkin for "Eric" in 1923.

  2. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston refits his famous yacht Suhaili

    Adrian Morgan went aboard. The completely refurbished Suhaili on her first outing at the 2016 Hamble Classics Regatta. In 1968, on 14 June at 1420, a 32ft ketch called Suhaili, with Robin Knox ...

  3. A Boat of His Own: Suhaili relaunched

    This week, more than half a century after being built in Bombay, India, one of the most famous yachts in sailing history has been refitted and relaunched alongside the latest two generations of his Clipper Race fleet. Sir Robin first made history in 1969 when he won the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race on board his 32-foot Bermudan ketch Suhaili ...

  4. Suhaili

    She was originally intended to be a dhow! Robin Knox-Johnston and a couple of fellow Merchant Navy officers had admired the graceful craft of the Persian Gulf and thought it would be good to sail one home. Luckily Alan Villiers persuaded them that such a boat would have no resale value, and some good looking

  5. Robin Knox-Johnston

    Sir William Robert Patrick Knox-Johnston CBE RD (born 17 March 1939) is a British sailor. In 1969, he became the first person to perform a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe.Along with Sir Peter Blake, he won the second Jules Verne Trophy, for which they were also named the ISAF Yachtsman of the Year award. In 2007, at the age of 67, he set a record as the oldest yachtsman to ...

  6. People and boats: Robert Knox-Johnston and Suhaili

    On 1 July 2018, Sir Robert fired an antique cannon from Suhaili to signal the start of another Golden Globe singles race, launched from the French port of Le Sables d'Olonne. By the way, Suhaili»'s granddaughter«Thuriya, a yacht built in the exact image of an old lady, also took part in this competition.

  7. Sir Robin and Suhaili, in his own words

    Suhaili's hull length (without spars) fell 7in short, but following a campaign to have this famous yacht included, Martyn Heighton, Director of the Register, wrote shortly before his untimely death in November that with Sir Robin's blessing, Suhaili will now be included in the Historic National Fleet. In Sir Robin's own words…

  8. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston refits his famous yacht Suhaili

    Suhaili was famously the yacht first sailed non-stop around the world single-handed in the 1968-69 Golden Globe. Following a recent refit by her owner Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, she's back on the ...

  9. Suhaili

    This week, more than half a century after construction began, Suhaili has been relaunched. The teak ketch will have one of its first outings when Sir Robin competes in the Hamble Classic Regatta on 24-25 September. The restoration of the William Atkins' designed yacht comes as preparations continue for the 2018 Golden Globe Race.

  10. Jubilee journey for Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on Suhaili

    Among the hundreds of boats preparing for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant is a 32ft yacht with a unique place in sailing history. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, 73, is repairing Suhaili on which he ...

  11. Interview: Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on sailing Suhaili again

    Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is going cruising again. He tells Emma Bamford about restoring Suhaili - and plans for a perfect cruising boat. Photo: Joe McCarthy. From the ground, divested of her sails and bowsprit, the 32ft long-keeler looks like any other old boat on the hard of any yard - brick-red antifouling, fresh coat of white paint on her topsides, stripe of peeling blue masking tape ...

  12. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, CBE

    On 22 April 1969, aboard his 32-foot home-built wooden boat Suhaili, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, after 312 days at sea, became the first man ever to circumnavigate the globe non-stop and single-handed. He was the only person of the nine contestants to finish that grueling Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, and donated his prize money to the family of ...

  13. An Interview with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

    Winner of the first-ever round-the-world yacht race, the 1968-69 Golden Globe, on his 32ft teak sloop Suhaili, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is one of the greatest living sailors.In the years following that solo epic, Knox-Johnston and fellow legend Sir Peter Blake set a Jules Verne Trophy record for the fastest ever crewed circumnavigation, Knox-Johnston started the successful Clipper Round the ...

  14. William Atkin SUHAILI

    Suhaili was built in Bombay with the help of Royal Bombay Yacht Club, India in 1963. She follows plans designed by William Atkins for "Eric" in 1923. Her design is based on the Norwegian sailing lifeboat designs of Colin Archer. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston first made history in 1969 when he won the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race on board his 32 ...

  15. First person to sail around the world (solo and non-stop)

    Robin Knox-Johnston (UK) was the first person to circumnavigate the world under sail solo and without stopping. He departed from Falmouth, Cornwall, UK, on 14 June 1968 as a participant in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, and by the time he returned to Falmouth on 22 April 1969 he was the only remaining competitor. His yacht was called Suhaili.

  16. Boats

    Building started on a slipway in Bombay Docks in 1963 using teak throughout. The keelson is 1' 2" x 10" and 22 feet long, planking 1 ¼ " teak. She is the first boat to ever sail non-stop around the world. No one would call Suhaili a greyhound, but she is solid, strong and a very good seaboat. In 1997 Suhaili went to the National Maritime ...

  17. The first man to sail non-stop solo around the world

    Today's solo non-stop around the world record - 42 days set by Frenchman Francois Gabart in a 100-foot trimaran in 2017 - is 270 days faster than when Knox-Johnston, now aged 79, first took ...

  18. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

    Visit Website. SIR ROBIN WAS THE FIRST TO SAIL SINGLE HANDED AND NON-STOP AROUND THE WORLD BETWEEN 14 JUNE 1968 AND 22 APRIL 1969. More than 50 years have gone by since Sir Robin Knox-Johnston made history by becoming the first man to sail solo and non-stop around the globe in 1968-69. One of nine sailors to compete in the Times Golden Globe ...

  19. Golden Globe Race

    The winner of the first 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe was Englishman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston sailing a 32ft timber yacht built in India named Suhaili. He became the first person ever to solo circumnavigate the globe non-stop after 312 days. Abhilash was sailing an exact replica of Suhaili, named 'Thuriya' and also built in India.

  20. Suhaili Fulfilling a dream

    In a makeshift tin shed in Newcastle, NSW, marine surveyor Mike Smith is building a replica of the legendary Suhaili, the cutting ketch made famous when Robin Knox-Johnston sailed non-stop around the world to win the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. "The original was a 32-foot (9.8-metre), nine tonne Bermudan ketch made entirely of teak ...

  21. Golden Globe Race

    Died by suicide. North Atlantic 1 July 1969. 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race entrants. There was only one finisher - Robin Knox-Johnston and his 9.75m traditional ketch-rigged double-ended yacht Suhaili who, at the start, were considered the most unlikely boat and given no chance. The rest either sank, retired or committed suicide.

  22. Another circumnavigation for Suhaili

    The crew of every passing, or passed, yacht greeted Suhaili and her famous skipper with the utmost admiration and respect. Hats were raised and salutes were exchanged. There was little doubt that despite her lengthy sabbatical, Suhaili was still instantly recognisable as one of the most famous yachts in the world." Unfortunately, the fleet ...