15 famous sailors of all time. Who is the best for you?

Who’s the best? This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer, especially when we talk about sailing. Too many technology differences, too different boats… So we propose 15 famous sailors: we chose those that for us are the greatest sailors of the modern age. French, English, Italian … They share the challenge to the oceans.

If in our famous sailors Top 15 there isn’t your hero, do not worry: write it in the comments below the article!

Peter_Blake famous sailors

Peter Blake (1948-2001)
When he made the exploits: 1990, 1994

Sailor and environmentalist. Among the many exploits, Peter is one of the most famous sailors of all time. He won the Whitbread 1989/90 on board ketch Steinlager II and in ’94 the Jules Verne Trophy with Robin Knox-Johnston.


Chay Blyth (1940)
When he made the exploit: 1971

His name is carved in history. He was the first in 1971 to circumnavigate the globe single-handed without stopping from east to west, against the winds and currents, onboard the 59 foot British Steel.


Franck Cammas (1972)
When he made the exploit: 2010, 2012
His records list is very long. We have chosen the Jules Verne Trophy in 2010 and the victory of the Volvo Ocean Race in 2012 onboard VOR70 Groupama.

PICTURES OF YESTERYEAR - managed by PPL Photo Agency - COPYRIGHT RESERVED Circa 1960: Francis Chichester aboard his ketch rigged yacht Gipsy Moth III, preparing for the first Observer Singlehanded Transtatlantic Race (OSTAR) PHOTO CREDIT: Eileen Ramsay Archive/PPL Tel: +44(0)1243 555561 Email: Web: *** Local Caption *** Circa 1960: Francis Chichester aboard his ketch rigged yacht Gipsy Moth III, preparing for the first Observer Singlehanded Transtatlantic Race (OSTAR)

Francis Chichester (1901-72)
When he made the exploit: 1966-67
Aged 65: the creator of the Ostar sails from Plymouth onboard 16 meters Gipsy Moth IV and launches in the round the world solo, who turns in 274 days. A myth.


Olivier De Kersauson (1944)
When he made the exploits: 1989, 1997, 2004

The king of the multihulls is always a record hunter. In 1989 he establishes the primacy of the round the world solo, in 1997 and in 2004 he won the Jules Verne onboard the trimaran Geronimo.


Michel Desjoyeaux (1965)
When he made the exploits: 2001, 2009
The professor” won everyhing He made history by triumphing twice at Vendée Globe, the only sailor in the world (in 2001 and 2009 onboard Open 60 Foncia).


Alessandro Di Benedetto (1971)
When he made the exploit: 2009
In 2009, Alessandro Di Benedetto has been around the world in solitary without stopping on the smallest boat ever, a 6.5 m Findomestic, employing 268 days.


Bernard Gilboy (1852-1906)
When he made the exploit: 1882-83
In 1882, Bernard Gilboy sailed a 19-foot (6 m) schooner that he built himself from San Francisco 7,000 miles (11,265 km) miles across the Pacific in 162 days until he was picked up exhausted and starving off Queensland, Australia after a swordfish pierced his hull and he lost the rudder.

Francis Joyon

Francis Joyon (1956)
When he made the exploit: 2008
He is the fastest one. Joyon holds the record of the round the world solo, completed in 2008 on the trimaran Idec (57 days, 13 hours and 34 minutes).

Robin_Knox_Johnson_2696052b famous sailors

Robin Knox-Johnston (1939)
When he made the exploits: 1968, 1994, 2007
In 1969 he became the first man to perform a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe and was the second winner of the Jules Verne Trophy (together with Sir Peter Blake). For this he was awarded with Blake the ISAF Yachtsman of the Year award. In 2006 he became at 67 the oldest yachtsman to complete a round the world solo voyage in the VELUX 5 Oceans Race.

bernard-moitessier-coll-arthaud famous sailors

Bernard Moitessier (1925-1994)
When he made the exploits: 1965, 1968
Maybe he is the most famous sailors of all time (together with Eric Tabarly). In 1968 Moitessier participated in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first round the world yacht race. With the fastest circumnavigation time, Moitessier was the likely winner but he elected to continue onto Tahiti again and not return to the start line in England, rejecting the idea of the commercialization of long distance sailing.

Schermata 2016-02-25 a 12.03.18

Loïck Peyron (1959)
When he made the exploits: 2012, 2014
In 2012 he won the Jules Verne Trophy onboard Banque Populaire V. In November 2014, he won the Route du Rhum single-handed transat on Banque Populaire VII maxi trimaran. He set the new record, travelling from Brittany to Guadeloupe in 7 days 15 hours 8 minutes and 32 seconds (22.93 kts average speed).


Ernest Henry Shackleton (1874-1921) 
When he made the exploit: 1916
He was a polar explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic. He needed to the crossing of Antarctica from sea to sea, via the pole. To this end he made preparations for what became the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17. Disaster struck this expedition when its ship, Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed before the shore parties could be landed. The crew escaped by camping on the sea ice until it disintegrated, then by launching the lifeboats to reach Elephant Island and ultimately the inhabited island of South Georgia, a stormy ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles.


Joshua Slocum 1844-1909
When he made the exploit: 1895-98
He was the first man to sail single-handedly around the world. In 1900 he wrote a book about his journey Sailing Alone Around the World, which became an international best-seller. He disappeared in November 1909 while aboard his boat, the Spray.

Eric tabarly

Eric Tabarly 1931-1998
When he made the exploits: 1964, 1980
Maybe he is the most famous sailors of all time (together with Bernard Moitessier). In 1964, Tabarly raced in the Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race on Pen Duick II and won, with a time of twenty-seven days and three hours. In 1980, Tabarly sailed the trimaran Paul Ricard for a transatlantic race, beating Charlie Barr’s transatlantic record. He has been the first sailor to experience the foils.


  1. You´re missing the Argentinian Vito Dumas, born september 26th, 1900 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    In june 1942 he circunnavigated the globe from Buenos Aires, around the 40th paralel, in an Argentinian designed and built 8mts boat, arriving in Buenos Aires, september 1943
    He explained his trip with these words (my translation) “I´m going in this materialistic age, to a romantic adventure, as an example for the youth”

    1. Absolutely. Vito Dumas sailed across the world within the roaring forties in a small boat in a time where only compass and sextant were available. His stories are thrilling and his courage humongous.

    2. But he didn’t actually do anything to deserve to be on this website?

  2. Captain Bligh of the Royal Navy, is a logical candidate, as is Magellan.

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