Man hadn’t yet walked on the moon.
45 years ago, sailing solo non-stop around the world was as big an adventure as space travel is today and even now, fewer people have sailed solo around the planet than have orbited it above the atmosphere.
On 22 April 1969, Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world after successfully completing the Sunday Times Golden Globe race, aboard his 32 foot ketch Suhaili. He had none of the modern technological aids sailors regard as standard today and even his radio failed for the majority of the ten month (312 days) 30,000 mile groundbreaking journey.
Reflecting on his historic feat, Sir Robin said: “It is hard to believe 45 years have passed since the day I completed that first historic circumnavigation. I’m still incredibly proud of the achievement, which was the start of many, memorable moments that I am proud of throughout my years at sea.
“Ocean racing has always been a fundamental part of my life, and as I prepare for my latest solo challenge at what feels like the ripe age of 75, I am delighted to say that my thirst for the thrills and adventures has not ceased.”
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is one of Britain’s most celebrated mariners and this autumn he will compete again in a solo transatlantic race, the classic Route du Rhum.
Following his first circumnavigation, Robin skippered "Condor" to Line Honours in two legs of the 1977/8 Whitbread Race; co-skippered "Enza New Zealand" with the late Peter Blake to take the Jules Verne Trophy in 1994 for the fastest circumnavigation of the world; and completed the Velux5Oceans solo round the world race in 4th position in 2006/7, at the age of 68.
Sir Robin was knighted in 1995, and has uniquely been the UK's Yachtsman of the Year 3 times. He was ISAF sailor of the Year with Peter Blake in 1994 and in 2007 was one of the first 6 inductees into the ISAF Hall of Fame.
In 1996 he created the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race to offer people from all walks of life and ages the experience of ocean racing together with the opportunity of completing a circumnavigation.
Over 4,000 people have since been introduced to sailing through the unique event which is now the longest in the world at 40,000 miles and is currently three quarters of the way through its ninth edition. Sir Robin will welcome the Clipper 2013-14 Race fleet back to London on 12 July.
After competing with the Clipper Race fleet in the Australian classic Sydney-Hobart last December, Sir Robin, 75, recognised his competitive sailing days were far from over and last month announced his entry in the Route de Rhum solo transatlantic challenge in his Open 60 yacht Grey Power.
“Solo sailing is where I feel most at home,” Sir Robin confessed. “No one else can benefit you or let you down; it is all in my hands. The Route de Rhum is one of the classics.”
The tenth anniversary edition of the 3,500 mile Route de Rhum from St Malo in France to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe starts on 2 November 2014.