Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, born 17 march 1939, became the first man to sail solo and non-stop around the globe when he won the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in 1969.
Of the nine men who started the race, six withdrew partway round, one sank and was rescued and another committed suicide – Sir Robin was the only finisher.
Knox-Johnston was born in Putney in London and was educated at the Berkhamsted boys’ school. From 1957 to 1965, he served in the Merchant Navy and the Royal Naval Reserve. In 1965, he sailed his William Atkins design ketch Suhaili from Bombay to England. Her design is based on the Norwegian sailing lifeboat designs of Colin Archer.
Due to a lack of money he had to interrupt his voyage for work in South Africa and was only able to complete it in 1967. In 1968, he was one of nine sailors who attempted to achieve the first solo non-stop circumnavigation of the world in the Sunday Times‘s Golden Globe race. He was the third sailor to start the race, and the only one to complete the voyage.
On 14 June 1968 Robin Knox-Johnston left Falmouth in his 32-foot (9.8-metre) boat Suhaili, one of the smallest boats to enter the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. Despite losing his self-steering gear off Australia, he rounded Cape Horn on 17 January 1969, 20 days before his closest competitor Bernard Moitessier.
Moitessier had sailed from Plymouth more than two months after Knox-Johnston, but he subsequently abandoned the race and instead sailed on to Tahiti. The other seven competitors dropped out at various stages, leaving Knox-Johnston to win the race and become officially the first person to circumnavigate the globe non-stop and single-handed on 22 April 1969, the day he returned to Falmouth.
Knox-Johnston donated his prize money for fastest competitor to the family of Donald Crowhurst, who committed suicide after attempting to fake a round the world voyage.
In recognition of his achievement, he was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).