Skip to main content

Sir Robin Weighs In Page 3

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is sitting in the lobby of New York’s Algonquin Hotel. He's in town to receive an award from the Cruising Club of America, and he's telling me a story about his encounter with the American astronaut Buzz Aldrin.“He’s a marvelous man, brilliant,” Sir Robin says. “You meet him and you realize that this man was born to be an astronaut. Everything about him, from the

Looking toward the future of the sport, a growing divide seems to exist between the purists and those encouraged by technological advance and engineering marvel. When asked about the America’s Cup and whether or not he enjoyed watching Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli match race two of the fastest, most advanced multihulls ever built, I half expected Knox-Johnston to criticize the billionaires for their greed and ego-mania, for their having taken the sport of sailing too far.

But Knox-Johnston is the type of sailor who will neither criticize another nor allow criticism of his own actions. And so his appraisal of the America’s Cup as a joy to behold, a thrilling advancement of the sport (he especially liked the Americans’ wing sail), should come as no surprise.

“These speed records are where we are now,” he says. “This is what we can be expecting, what we can be looking forward to at this point. It’s all very exciting.”

And Knox-Johnston is excited. With bright animation, he details how he believes the America’s Cup should extend further to allow a greater number of international teams, each with a national crew, to compete for the Cup. He cites the extravagant cost of the boats as a roadblock to the racing that is holding back the entire sport.

“We dealt with this when we were dealing with the Admiral’s Cup,” he says, referring to the regatta staged by the Royal Ocean Racing Club. An event featuring a number of three-boat national teams and some of the best racing in the world, the Admiral’s Cup was held off the Isle of Wight from 1957 to 2003, when it was halted indefinitely, largely as a result of escalating costs.

During his own affiliation with the Admiral’s Cup, Knox-Johnston says there was no possibility of buying the best talent or winning the race simply because you had built the best boat. “What gave it an edge was that we had amateurs. And we trained them hard. We were there to compete, but we all had jobs as well.” Interestingly enough, Knox-Johnston won the Cup in 1975, with those amateurs and their day jobs.

It’s this concept of friendly competition that Knox-Johnston strives to cultivate through his participation in both the Velux 5 Oceans Race and the Clipper Ventures Round the World races. The Velux 5 Oceans Race, begun in 1982 and held every four years, is a solo circumnavigation race consisting of five legs. It is open to a number of different classes, providing competitors the option of entering older, smaller and therefore more affordable boats. This year’s American entry, Brad Van Liew, is helming Pro Form, an Eco 60 built in 1998, which he hopes will pass a zero emissions standard.

Knox-Johnston has a mission to bring amateur sailors to the world of ocean racing, and this is perhaps most evident in his involvement with the Clipper Ventures Round the World race. The brainchild of Knox-Johnston, the race has been held every two years since 1996 on a small fleet of identical boats. The focus has been on introducing new seamen to the sport through training and education, with 40 percent of the crews having never been on a boat before.

Rather than allowing single corporate sponsorship of the boats, Knox-Johnston works with individual cities to sponsor teams. While the original boats were named Bristol, Jersey and London, they expanded to include Cape Town, New York and Hong Kong. Since its inception, the race has brought almost 2,000 new sailors from 27 nationalities to ocean racing.

Related

AdobeStock_15671180

Orca Encounters in Spain

The waters off the Atlantic coast of the southern Iberian Peninsula can be tough enough as it is, but in recent months resident pods of orcas have created a whole new kind of challenge, ramming boats and chewing off rudders. Though initially confined to smaller vessels, larger ...read more

Screen-Shot-2022-01-13-at-9.26.59-AM2048x

Video: Celestial Navigation Pt3

. In episode three of the Practical Celestial Navigation course, Andy Howe examines the theory behind celestial navigation, the celestial triangle and the celestial sphere, and why it is important to have a basic understanding of each. Topics introduced include zenith position, ...read more

01-LEAD-6.-After-2-years-ashore,-Nada-headsto-the-water-(3)

Sailing in the Time of Covid

In mid-August 2019, my wife, Terrie, and I laid up our Malö 46, Nada, in Falmouth, England, and flew home to Maine. We booked flights back to the UK for May 2020, anticipating a summer of cruising the Atlantic coasts of France and Spain. Then Covid struck. Remember that first ...read more

Ulysse Nardin promo photo

The Ocean Race Names Official Timekeeper

With just under one year before the start of The 2022-23 Ocean Race, Swiss watch manufacturer Ulysse Nardin has been named the official timekeeper of the race. The Ocean Race, formerly known as the Volvo Ocean Race and before that the Whitbread Round the World Race, announced ...read more

Arthur Daniel_RORC Maserati - RORC Transatlantic 2022 - Jan 15th -Social Media-4

Fast Finishes for the RORC Leaders

Over the weekend, the first finishers of the 2022 RORC Transat made landfall in Grenada, led by Giovanni Soldini’s Multi70 Maserati, which was awarded line honors with a corrected time of six days, 18 hours and 51 minutes. Maserati finished ahead of Peter Cunningham’s MOD70 ...read more

Background-02

Notice to Mariners: A Blog from the SAIL Editors

As a teenager, I stumbled across a copy of Derek Lundy’s Godforsaken Sea in the back room of a used bookshop. I had never heard of the Vendée Globe and frankly found all the boat-speak in the first 50 pages a little difficult to get through. But Lundy’s storytelling and the draw ...read more

Screen-Shot-2022-01-13-at-9.26.59-AM2048x

VIDEO: Celestial Navigation Episode 2

Celestial navigation is an invaluable tool for all kinds of sailors. In episode two of the celestial navigation series, learn the basic elements of navigation and the sight reduction process using declination and GHA to determine the Geographic Position and navigate using a ...read more

Film-poster-EP-2048

Cruising: Year of the Sea Shanty

Along with other timeless pursuits, like baking sourdough and gardening, singing sea shanties surged back into popularity during the recent lockdown, thanks, in part, to the app TikTok and its “duet” feature, which allows singers from around the world create music together. By ...read more