Eight British solo circumnavigators were in London yesterday - how many more can you name?
Eight British greats helped celebrate the 40th anniversary of the return home of RKJ aboard Suhaili to win the Golden Globe race, but how many more British single-handed round the world sailors can you name?
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Here’s the brief biographies of the eight who attended the ceremony at St Katherine’s Dock, London yesterday.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston CBE RD*
Sailing legend Sir Robin is the first man to sail solo non-stop around the world. In 2007 he completed his second solo circumnavigation in the VELUX 5 OCEANS. His list of sailing achievements is long and impressive. In addition to completing the Jules Verne Trophy and Whitbread Round the World Race he was a member of the UK Admiral’s Cup team from 1973 to 1975 and has competed six times in the double-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race, winning the race in 1970 and 1974.
Sir Robin was knighted in 1995. He has been named as the UK Yachtsman of the Year an unprecedented three times, was voted ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year in 1994 and inducted into the ISAF Hall of Fame in 2007.
He is Chairman of Clipper Ventures Plc, the marine events company which operates the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race for non-professional sailors and the single-handed VELUX 5 OCEANS race.
Dee Caffari MBE
Born in 1973 and living in Fareham, Hampshire, Dee is a double World Record holder. She is the first female to sail solo, non-stop ‘the wrong way’ around the globe, which she did in the 2005/6 Aviva Challenge that saw her at sea for a grueling 178 days against prevailing winds and currents. And, having completed the 2008/9 Vendée Globe sailing Aviva, she became the first female to sail solo both ways around the globe. Dee finished sixth in the Vendée after 99 days at sea.
Richard Broadhead finished the 1982 BOC Challenge in third place on his 52-foot cutter, Perseverance of Medina. He carried out one of the great rescues at sea during the race when he turned back in the Southern Pacific Ocean to get to the stricken French sailor Jacques de Roux whose yacht, Skoiern III, had somersaulted and was sinking. Broadhead found de Roux and then later met up with a French navy vessel whose crew took him on board, “in exchange for some baguettes, some camembert and some rum”. In 1983 he was voted Yachtsman of the Year for his heroic efforts.
Born in 1943, David Cowper lives and works in Newcastle upon Tyne as a quantity surveyor but sailing was his passion from an early age. In 1980 Cowper completed the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe solo via Cape Horn in a sloop, Ocean Bound, beating Francis Chichester’s record of 226 days by one day.
He repeated the feat two years later in a westerly rather than easterly direction in 237 days, beating Chay Blyth’s record by 71 days and becoming the first person to circumnavigate the world in both directions single-handed.
He switched to motor boats and in 1984-1985 he sailed westwards round the globe in a converted wooden lifeboat, Mabel E. Holland, via the Panama Canal, becoming the first person to circumnavigate solo in a motor boat.
These feats served as a prelude to the first solo circumnavigation via the Northwest Passage, which consumed four and a half years and ended in 1990.
Conrad Humphreys, 36, hails from Devon and is a full-time sailor who has competed in three round the world races. In 2005, he became the fifth British sailor ever to complete the Vendée Globe finishing seventh after 104 days at sea in HELLOMOTO.
Conrad’s professional career in sailing began at 17 years old, when he was spotted at the Junior World Cadet Championships and asked to join the Youth Challenge campaign for the 1993-4 Whitbread Round the World Race (now the Volvo Ocean Race) The change in direction thrust him into the world of extreme ocean racing. His first leadership challenge was as skipper of LG FLATRON in the grueling BT Global Challenge 2000-01. Conrad and his team went onto dominate the race setting a record pace and winning four out of seven legs. At just 26 years of age, Conrad became the youngest winning skipper in the history of the race.
Conrad’s third circumnavigation was 2004/5 Vendée Globe, which was not without incident. After 25 days at sea, Conrad was lying in seventh place and just about to enter the Southern Ocean when he hit a submerged object at speed. Flung across the cabin, his first thoughts where that he was sinking. HELLOMOTO withstood the impact but a rudder did not. Everyone thought that Conrad’s race was over as he limped towards Cape Town. No-one had ever successfully changed a rudder at sea without assistance and gone on to complete the race.
Humphreys arrived in Cape Town and, anchoring off a small bay near Simon’s Town, set about changing the broken rudder. Diving repeatedly under the hull in the full glare of the world’s media, he managed to replace the rudder and rejoin the race. The euphoria he felt at completing the repair was swiftly replaced by apprehension when he realised that he would now be entering the Southern Ocean, in last place and nearly 4,000 miles behind the leaders.
Incredibly, after 104 days at sea, Humphreys crossed the finish line in seventh place to a hero’s welcome.
Steve White, 36, is a ‘journeyman’ sailor from Dorchester, Dorset, who now lives in Weymouth. For ten years, Steve has had the burning desire and the strong ambition to take part in the Vendée Globe. Unlike the majority of IMOCA 60-foot skippers, Steve has had little support from sponsors over the last few years, so has been constantly struggling to reach his goal.
Having remortgaged his house four times and taken out a crippling seven-year bank loan to buy his boat, he managed to secure last minute backing from a consortium of benefactors, whose only request was that Steve name his boat Toe in the Water (it was previously called Spirit of Weymouth). Toe in the Water is a charity set up for the rehabilitation of injured servicemen through competitive sailing. Steve has built up some huge personal debts to finance this campaign however all was worth it as he crossed the line in eighth position after 109 days at sea. Steve now has his sights set on further solo sailing adventures.
Michael Garside from Cambridge was born on 16 May 1944. A magazine publisher and former officer in the British Special Forces, he competed in the Around Alone in 1998 in his boat Magellan Alpha, completing the race via Cape Horn in 138 days.
During the race he diverted to assist his fellow competitor, the American Brad Van Liew, whose boat Balance Bar had been dismasted. Michael and Brad, the youngest competitor in the race, had been locked in battle for second place in Class II for the better part of three legs of the race and had struck up a friendship, talking almost daily and encouraging each other as they competed. Less than ten hours separated them by the end of Leg 3 and Michael was devastated when he heard of his friend’s misfortune from race headquarters. “I felt like crying,” he wrote in an email posted on the race website. Brad later emailed him to say he was safe and continuing under jury rig.
Sam Donovan (née Brewster)
Born and bred in Badingham, Suffolk, Sam studied Outdoor Education at a college in the Lake District. She competed as crew in the British Steel Challenge and went on to complete a west-about solo circumnavigation, finishing in 247 days (including one stop for mast repairs) on 4 July 1996.
Now happily married to Adrian Donovan, Sam has two children, Michael, 8, and Maria, 6. She lives where she was born and helps with Adrian’s traditional boat building business and manages, with her sister, the poultry business handed down from their mother.
She and her family share a love of water sports and adventure, which now mainly involves playing about in a variety of very small crafts on local waters, getting very wet and then hugging steaming mugs of hot chocolate!