Les Sables-d’Olonne Vendee. GOLDEN GLOBE RACE GGR: The Story of Robin Knox-Johnston’s Mythical Suhaili

Golden Globe Race – The story of Robin Knox-Johnston’s mythical Suhaili

Suhaili and Joshua on the pontoons for the 2018 GGR
the suhaili by Robin Knox-Johnston and the Joshua by Bernard Moitessier met again on the occasion of the new non-stop and unassisted round the world race from Les Sables d’Olonne, the Golden Globe Race 2018.
These two sailboats, now legendary, participated in the Golden Globe Challenge of 1968/69, the first circumnavigation of the world in competition without stopover and without assistance. Only nine sailors took part in the race, Robin Knox-Johnston being the only one to have finished around the world (with one of the smallest boats in the race). As for Bernard Moitessier, he turned around before completing the loop in order to “save his soul”, that is to say in order not to join a world that was too “commercial” for his taste.

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The Suhaili and the Joshua rub shoulders on the pontoons of the Vendée Globe
This is only the second time that these two sailboats have crossed paths. And they will open the road on Sunday July 1, 2018 before moving aside to let the flotilla of 17 participants in the GGR 2018 pass.
On the suhailiSir Robin will fire a shot at noon to announce the 5 minutes preceding the start of this new race commemorating the golden age of navigation – with sextant and paper charts – and the 50 years of the pioneering race.

The unlikely encounters of Robin Knox-Johnston and Bernard Moitessier

Robin Knox-Johnston and Bernard Moitessier never actually met during the 1968/69 Golden Globe Challenge! The reason is simple: they started their navigation from different ports.
What is less known is that they left on different dates: for Robin Knox-Johnston it was June 14, 1968 from Falmouth and for Bernard Moitessier on August 22, 1968 in Plymouth.
When some indicate that Bernard Moitessier passed Cape Horn on February 5, 1969 19 days behind Robin Knox-Johnston (January 17, 1969), they therefore forget the essential: Bernard Moitessier, who left 69 days after Robin, had caught up 50 days at sea, the gap at Cape Horn being only 19 days!
Not having met, they could have communicated by radio but Bernard Moitessier had not taken any in order to maintain total isolation, particularly vis-à-vis a world that was too commercial in his eyes and as a condemnation of the marketing around of the race launched by the Sunday Times.

First in history…
According to the words of Robin Knox-Johnston, if Bernard Moitessier had continued his momentum, he would undoubtedly have broken the speed record for a non-stop, unassisted round-the-world sail, but it was he Robin who would have was the first to complete the world tour by arriving in England, before Moitessier did. Shades…
On April 22, 1969, 312 days after his departure, Robin Knox-Johnston was the first to arrive in Falmouth and thus became the first man to have sailed solo and non-stop around the world. The other 7 sailors never finished the race and therefore did not complete the world tour. Robin Knox-Johnston donated his fastest competitor award to the family of Donald Crowhurst, one of the race’s starting sailors, who committed suicide after trying to mislead the public and the media about the reality of his journey around the world.

Robin Knox-Johnston and Bernard Moitessier met years later at a press conference in Paris and of course talked about their respective world tours. Bernard Moitessier’s refusal to return to “commercial” life was discussed between them.
Rearmed, the suhaili is at anchor at the National Cornish Maritime Museum in Falmouth; despite its mythical role in the history of single-handed racing, the suhaili (32ft) is not registered as a historic monument in England as it is 18cm too short for the necessary criteria.


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Philippe Brossard-Lotz

The Sand Reporter


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Les Sables-d’Olonne Vendee. GOLDEN GLOBE RACE GGR: The Story of Robin Knox-Johnston’s Mythical Suhaili