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Sir Chay Blyth returns to Hamble to celebrate 50th anniversary of pioneering solo circumnavigation

by Barry Pickthall 2 Aug 2021 15:52 BST 6 August 2021
Sir Chay Blyth returns to the Hamble to celebrate the 50th anniversary © Jonathan Eastland / Alam

Sir Chay Blyth returns to the Hamble to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his pioneering solo non-stop west-about circumnavigation back in 1971 aboard the 59ft ketch British Steel.

When: Friday August 6th 2021. Hamble River, Southampton. UK

Event: A parade of sail will take place up the Hamble River on Friday August 6 led by Sir Chay Blyth to mark the 50th anniversary of his victorious return to the UK at the end of a pioneering 292-day solo non-stop west-about circumnavigation against the prevailing winds and currents aboard his 59ft ketch rigged yacht British Steel. The yacht was equipped with only the most basic gear - no roller furling, self-tailing winches, GPS, nor Sat/phone - and during the voyage, communication with the outside world remained spasmodic at best. When the yacht's primitive wind vane self-steering failed during a storm off Cape Horn, Chay was forced to hand steer for the remaining 20,000 miles - a remarkable achievement on its own!

On his return, Chay was given a right Royal welcome attended by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Prime Minister Edward Heath. Thousands more lined the waterfront, and the headlines ran: BOAT OF STEEL - MAN OF IRON. The Times newspaper described the voyage as 'The most outstanding passage ever made by man alone.' It took another 23 years for anyone to challenge the record - fellow British sailor Mike Golding in the British Steel Challenge yacht Group 4 Securitas in1994. To-date only five have completed the full west-about route.

Blyth was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his achievement and went on to win the first Whitbread Round the World Race on elapsed time in 1974. He gained further successes in transatlantic and round Britain endurance races before setting up The Challenge Business to give novice sailors the opportunity of a lifetime to race around the globe on the same west-about route in a series of one-design yachts. Chay, who first came to fame with a record-setting row across the Atlantic in an open dory with John Ridgeway back in 1966 also founded what is now the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge rowing race. The great adventurer was knighted in 1997 for his services to the sport.

Parade of sail: Those with a yacht or motorboat are welcome to join the Parade of Sail, and the public will get a great view from the Hamble village waterfront, public car park and slipway, just as they did 50 years ago.


11:00 - Yachts start congregating off Calshot, with Sir Chay Blyth in the 27ft launch Lucky Me skippered by Christopher Waddington (who was one of the first to step aboard British Steel to help pull the sails down, after crossing the finish line at Hamble Spit Buoy in '71).

11:30 - Flotilla, led by the Hamble Harbour Master's 7m catamaran and Lucky Me, commence the parade of sail up-river to the Royal Southern Yacht Club at Hamble (where Sir Chay came ashore 50 years ago)

12:00 - Chay arrives at Royal Southern YC pontoon to be welcomed by Commodore Robert Vose, Mike Golding and other dignitaries

12:00 - 12:30 - Flotilla motor line astern past the pontoon for salute.

12:30 - 13:00 - Press conference followed by pre-organised individual media interviews.

See historic footage of Sir Chay Blyth's record setting voyage here

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