Final voyage for a master mariner

Bob Fisher
Sunday October 22, 2006

His blue eyes sparkle as he says: ‘This is nothing like it was. That was hell. This is going to be fun.’ Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is below deck on the 60ft Saga Insurance, the boat he is to sail in the 30,000-mile, solo race around the world. He is seated at the tilting chart table, noisily fixing in place the two laptop computers he will use for communication and navigation; noisily because he is cursing the suppliers for presenting them badly. All the time the band of the Royal Marines is playing on the stereo.He has little else to worry him in the marina in Bilbao as a small army of helpers busy themselves with the last-minute tasks essential to preparing a racing yacht. ‘I have nothing to lose. The young Turks all do,’ he says.

At 67 years old, the first man to sail solo non-stop around the world (in 1969) is enjoying the excitement, even if everything isn’t exactly falling perfectly into place.The Velux 5 Oceans, the two-stop round-the-world race for single-handers that starts today, is presenting this master mariner with a challenge that few of his age would ever consider and he admits that his best chance of winning would come with the failure of his main rivals.No one knows the pitfalls the competitors face better than Sir Robin – not that he is underestimating the others whose portfolios are equally impressive. It is simply that he feels the wisdom he has acquired over years of ocean sailing, added to his time spent in the Merchant Navy, are an advantage.

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