British yachtsman Sir Chay Blyth returned to the Hamble today to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his victorious return to the UK at the end of a pioneering 292-day solo non-stop west-about circumnavigation against the prevailing winds and currents aboard his 59ft ketch rigged yacht British Steel.
A large crowd gathered at the Royal Southern Yacht Club to welcome his return, including fellow pioneer solo circumnavigator Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, and Mike Golding who was the first to break Sir Chay’s record 23 years later. The fact that only 5 sailors have managed to complete the same ‘wrong way’ voyage in the 50 years, against the 140 who have sailed East-about with the prevailing winds, underlines the enormity of Blyth’s feat 50 years ago when yachts were not equipped with roller furling, GPS navigation, poor communications and only rudimentary self-steering. Blyth’s wind vane self steering was smashed in a storm off Cape Horn, and Blyth had to steer his 59ft yacht by hand for the remaining 20,000 miles.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said today: “Francis Chichester, Alec Rose, myself and Chay were the pathfinders when the Brits dominated this form of ocean sailing, which led to a lot of people taking up the sport.”
Mike Golding, a former fireman who has completed 6 circumnavigations is one of these. “Sir Chay’s voyage excited me enough to get sailing and has shaped my career ever since. The continuing success achieved this last week by Team GB sailors at the Tokyo Olympics may not have been nearly so good had these pioneers like Sir Chay and Sir Robin not excited so many to buy boats and get afloat, for it is their children or grandchildren that are now leading the charge in international sailing. We have a great deal to thank them and today is mark in the history of our sport.”