Sir Robin forced to retire from Round Britain and Ireland Race

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Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has been forced to retire from the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race after splitting the mainsail between second and third reefs on his yacht, Grey Power. The mast has also been damaged.

Sir Robin and his crew member Simon Clay are now heading for the nearest port which can take the Open 60 which is Calais in France. The race started this morning off the Isle of Wight after being postponed due to bad weather yesterday.

Sir Robin said all was fine on board and he had had a great sail otherwise and had hit 21 knots, but repairs will take a couple of days so carrying on was not possible. Sir Robin spoke to race organisers RORC at 1830 BST to inform them of his retirement.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today Show on Tuesday morning: "The conditions were quite interesting with more than 30 knots of wind behind us going downwind. As you go up the Channel you have to stay out of the Traffic Separation Scheme and as we were gybing between those our mainsail split. It is too big a job for us to do on board so sadly we are out of the race.

“The tail end of hurricane Bertha meant conditions were not ideal. We were not the only boat to withdraw. In the olden days people wouldn’t have gone to sea, but modern design means it is a lot safer than it was. We were never in any danger, we were just frustrated because we were out of the race.

“I’m very disappointed indeed. The Round Britain and Ireland Race is a cracking event. The British Isles are designed to race round, although it has become more difficult because of the North Sea oil rigs and wind farms than when I first did it.

“The conditions have been tremendous with some quite big seas.”

Asked about his participation in the Transatlantic solo race the Route du Rhum in November, Sir Robin added:

“It’s just because I like it. It’s like Steve Cram likes going for a run. He doesn’t have to be racing, although he would probably like to race.  It’s in us. It’s in our blood. We want to go and compete. We realise we are not quite as young and agile as we used to be, but we have experience.   

“I just get a buzz from it and being in the race. There are lots of faster boats than me but they are in a different class to me. I will certainly race hard to try and win it.”