Suhaili Falmouth Parade of Sail

Imagine sailing across the ocean, around the world, through both calm seas and stormy ones. What is it like holding that determination and strength to keep going, even when it wears thin? Imagine finally returning to port, being greeted by cheering crowds and seemingly endless celebrations as you sail your way into the history books. You have just completed a non-stop solo circumnavigation. The first non-stop solo navigation. How do you feel? Elated? Exhausted? Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is the man with these answers. 

We are coming up to the 50th Anniversary since Sir Robin Knox-Johnston departed Falmouth to become the first man to complete a solo non-stop circumnavigation in 1968 in the Golden Globe Race. To celebrate this occasion, a 3-day event is being held from the 11th to the 14th June 2018 in Falmouth Haven Harbour, an event that is not to be missed!

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to complete a non-stop solo circumnavigation after completing his 30,000 mile voyage on 22nd April 1969 after 312 days at sea. After Sir Francis Chichester had achieved the longest voyage when he circumnavigated the world in 1966/67 with one stop in Australia, there was only one great voyage left to be undertaken. A solo non-stop circumnavigation. Of the nine who entered the race, Sir Robin was the only one to finish. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his achievement.

He raced on Suhaili, a 32ft ketch that was sturdy enough to survive the race and return in (almost) one piece. Due to the various sizes of the entrants’ boats, they all began at different times to suit their schedules. Few believed that Sir Robin had any chance of winning the race, especially as due to him still recovering from jaundice, progress was slow at the beginning. Suhaili had also been knocked down with her coach roof shifting by the time they had rounded Cape Horn. Her water tanks had been polluted, and her radio was out of action. As Sir Robin later said “Mother Nature is an unforgiving mistress, always with one last trick up her sleeve for you when you least expect it.”

For the rest of the voyage (8 and a half months of it), the only contact Sir Robin had was when he was sighted from the shore or by a solitary ship. But after a strenuous effort, through both predicted and unpredicted storms and with comprehensive navigational and time keeping issues due to the loss of his radio, he completed the race and was feted a modern hero of our times upon his return to Falmouth.

Sir Robin later became the President of the Little Ship Club in 1995 and remained in this role until 2017. In 2007, he became the oldest yachtsman to complete a round the world solo voyage in the Velux 5 Oceans Race at the age of 67.


To celebrate 50 years since Sir Robin first set off for this race, a 3-day commemorative event has been organised by the Falmouth Town Team and the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club. This event will take place before the fleet of the 2018 Golden Globe yachts and skippers set out from Falmouth on the 14th June on the first stage of the 50th anniversary race around the globe. The fleet will be joined by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston sailing aboard Suhaili, alongside two other historical solo circumnavigators, Sir Francis Chichester’s Gipsy Moth IV and Sir Alec Rose’s Lively Lady.

The days leading up to their departure are set to be filled with exciting events and displays, both ticketed and non-ticketed. These include a book launch and signing of Sir Robin’s latest book Knox-Johnston on Seamanship and Seafaring and a firework display over Falmouth’s harbour and bay.

More information about the event can be found here. This is sure to be a truly memorable week for all who are involved in this event and for all who attend! We would love to hear any stories from those who attend this event.

Image credit: Richard Wilcox

Edward Epsen, 19.04.2018 | More from Edward Epsen’s blog