Throwback: One year on since Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s victorious Route du Rhum campaign

02 November 2015

One year ago today, Clipper Race Founder and Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, 76, started Transatlantic solo race the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe, leaving St Malo, France.

The British adventurer and first ever man to sail solo, non-stop around the world in 1968/9, came third in the Rhum class on his Open 60, Grey Power, 32 years after last competing in the French classic race.

Sir Robin set off on the 3,542 mile contest in Saint-Malo, France in “disturbed conditions” on November 2 2014. Winds of 30 knots and gusts of 40 to 45 knots were prevalent later on the first night, with an agitated sea state making conditions very difficult, with Sir Robin describing parts of the English Channel crossing as ‘pandemonium’.

There were many other casualties, with numerous boats retiring and sea rescues taking place by French authorities. But Sir Robin started off the course going slow and steady, and then started to race harder once passing Cap Finisterre.

Sir Robin said at the time: “Following the latest weather forecast I have put in the third reef and will use my storm jib for the first day. I will take it slow as far as Cap Finisterre and then I will start to race properly. I don’t want to risk injury to myself or damage to my boat.

“The first couple of days are going to be sleepless, getting past Ushant and the Bay of Biscay with the shipping and fishing boats.

“I feel exactly the same as when I last did the Route du Rhum in 1982. In my head, I am 48. If you think young, you feel young.

“I worked very hard on the Clipper Race over the last year and it’s time for my holidays now. The sea is where I feel most at home. I am just not ready to stop racing yet, and why should I?” he added.

Gradually, Sir Robin reeled in his competitors, moving up from 14th place. He had a stimulating battle with three other yachts for the final podium in the last week which saw light winds, rain squalls and big wind shifts.

Sir Robin finished in third after 20 days, 7 hours, 52 minutes and 22 seconds at sea, managing to hold off rival Wilfrid Clerton, who finished around 20 miles behind.

Sir Robin made a return to competitive solo ocean racing after competing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with one of his Clipper Race crews in 2013.

He became jealous of watching his Clipper Race crews set off at the start of each new leg during their circumnavigation and wished he was racing himself.

Sir Robin was the oldest competitor in the race aged 75 at the time.

Sir Robin continues to inspire the sailing and wider adventure community, and won the Yachting Journalists’ Association ‘Sailor of the Year’ award in January 2015; and Sailing Today Magazine’s Sailor of the Year accolade in September 2015.

To relive the Route du Rhum finish, watch the video here.

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