Skip to main content

Sir Robin Weighs In Page 4

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

Understanding this, I ask Knox-Johnston about the current crop of circumnavigators grabbing the headlines. In 2009, two 17-year-olds, American Zac Sunderland and Brit Mike Perham, completed solo voyages. Currently, two 16-year-olds, Sunderland's younger sister Abby and Australian Jessica Watson, are making voyages of their own. In October 2009, a Danish 14-year-old attempted the same, but a court prohibited it and put her under state supervision until July of 2010, when she claims she'll set sail once again.

When I bring up the fact that the World Sailing Speed Record Council recently announced the discontinuation of the award for the youngest and oldest record holders, Knox-Johnston’s face reflects both the seasoned veteran and the popular grandfather.

“I have certain concerns,” he says, pausing. “My concern is that everyone ages differently. Some 16-year-olds are as mature as 30-year-olds. But others, well, their parents might be pushing them. And if we start having records for the youngest, I guarantee you it will end in tears.”

Knox-Johnston’s father is credited as being the impetus in his own voyage, when one morning in March of 1967, he subtly hinted to his son that a nonstop circumnavigation was “about all there’s left to do now, isn’t it?” But Knox-Johnston was no teenager at the time, having already put in plenty of sea time as an officer in the merchant navy.

It’s this kind of experience that Knox-Johnston says is imperative to a successful voyage. “During storms and such, you have to draw on reserves. And those reserves are drawn from experience. Only the individual understands this, and my concern is that at ages 13 and 14, children don’t truly understand this for themselves. If their parents say to them ‘you’ve got to do this because I told you to,’ well, at that age, they tend to listen to their parents.”

At 71, Knox-Johnston is clearly not ready to disappear into retirement. The Velux 5 Oceans Race and Clipper Ventures are in full swing, with Knox-Johnston acting as a tireless media liaison. He makes frequent trips to Asia to cultivate the growing sailing presence there, and he is involved with both the China Sea Race and the Sydney Hobart Race. He complains of jet lag during our interview, although in the 40 years since his Globe Challenge victory he’s undoubtedly gotten used to it.

But Knox-Johnston plans on returning home in many senses, sometime, when the adventures start winding down and his classroom is filled with his grandchildren. Smiling, he tells me about Suhaili, the 32-foot ketch he sailed around the world back in 1968, and how he has plans for her future. In 1997 she was given to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, but he bought her back in 2002 when he realized the controlled atmosphere was shrinking her planking. Over the last eight years he’s been slowly refitting her with a mind toward short cruises around the waters where he grew up.

For as much sailing as he’s done in international waters, and for as much as he’s brought to the sport, there is something beautiful about imagining Knox-Johnston finishing his time on the water with the boat that got him started. But something about the restlessness in his eyes as he describes his boat leads me to believe that he’s not planning on relaxing.

Related

00LEAD-Thomas-on-%22Melody%22-2004

The Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Disappearance of Thomas Thor Tangvald

The first boat Thomas Tangvald ever owned was just 22 feet long. She was an odd craft, a narrow plywood scow with a flat bottom, leeboards on either side, and square ends—little more than a daysailer with a rotting deck and tiny cabinhouse tacked on. Thomas paid just $200 for ...read more

VIPCAshowbynight

USVI Charter Yacht Show Showcases a Flourishing Industry

As the U.S. Virgin Islands continues to attract sailors seeking to charter and explore the pristine territory on their own, the immense growth and expanded options for a crewed yacht or term charters have exploded here over the past five years. Last week, the USVI Charter ...read more

Screen-Shot-2022-11-21-at-9.48.33-AM

Personal Locator Beacon Wins Top Design Award

The Ocean Signal RescueME PLB3 AIS Personal Locator took top honors at the 2022 DAME Design Awards, while Aceleron Essential, a cobalt-free lithium-iron phosphate battery with replaceable and upgradeable parts, won the first DAME Environmental Design Award. Announced each year ...read more

tracker

EPIRB in the Golden Globe Race

Tapio Lehtinen’s boat sank early this morning southeast of South Africa while racing the Golden Globe Race, a faithfully low-tech reproduction of the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe. The boat went down quickly and stern-first according to the skipper’s emergency transmissions. ...read more

99640-victoire-de-charles-caudrelier-a-bord-du-maxi-edmond-de-rothschild-r-1200-900

Victory, Tragedy in the Route du Rhum

The 2022 Route du Rhum was a highly anticipated event in the ocean racing calendar, but few could have predicted exactly how challenging, dramatic, and tragic it would ultimately prove. French yachtsman Charles Caudrelier took home gold aboard the Ultim maxi trimaran Maxi Edmond ...read more

DSC_1879

Boat Review: Lyman-Morse LM46

Lyman-Morse has been building fine yachts in Thomaston, Maine, ever since Cabot Lyman first joined forces with Roger Morse back in 1978. With experience creating and modifying boats built of various materials, backed by its own in-house fabrication facility, the firm has ...read more

01-LEAD-SPICA-Forest_3

Know-how: All-new Battery Tech

Until very recently, the batteries in sailboats used some form of lead-acid chemistry to store energy. Different manufacturers used different techniques and materials, but in the end, the chemistry and the process by which the batteries charge and discharge electricity remained ...read more

01-LEAD-Bill-Sailing2

At the Helm: When Things Go Sideways

I don’t like sea stories. My number one goal on every passage is to get the crew back in one piece. My number two goal is to get the boat back in one piece as well. If I can’t do both, I’ll take the former. Do this long enough, though, and things are going to happen, no matter ...read more