Celebrating Sir Chay Blyth’s 50th Anniversary of Solo Circumnavigation

Commodore Robert Vose (left) with Sir Chay Blyth and fellow pioneering solo circumnavigator Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. Photo © Barry Pickthall / PPL

Royal Southern Yacht Club welcome Sir Blyth and Sir Knox-Johnson to celebrate westabout achievements.

British yachtsman Sir Chay Blyth returned to the Hamble in August to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his victorious return to the UK at the end of a pioneering 292-day solo non-stop westabout circumnavigation against the prevailing winds and currents aboard his 59ft ketch rigged yacht British Steel.


50 years ago. Chay Blyth returning to the Hamble aboard his 59ft ketch British Steel British Steel at the end of his 292-day solo non-stop westabout circumnavigation. Photo © Chay Blyth Archive / PPL


Royal Welcome. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh presents yachtsman Chay Blyth and his family to his daughter Princess Anne and Prince Charles at the Royal Southern Yacht Club shortly after Blyth had stepped ashore for the first time in 294 days. – photo © Chay Blyth Archive / PPL


A large crowd gathered at the Royal Southern Yacht Club to welcome his return, including fellow pioneer solo circumnavigator Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, and Mike Golding who was the first to break Sir Chay’s record 23 years later.

Well-wishers cheer as Sir Chay Blyth arrives at the Royal Southern Yacht Club pontoon. Photo © Barry Pickthall / PPL


The fact that only five sailors have managed to complete the same “wrong way” voyage in the 50 years since, compared to the 140 who have sailed eastabout with the prevailing winds, underlines the enormity of Blyth’s feat at a time when yachts were not equipped with roller furling, GPS navigation, high-tech communications or tech-enabled self-steering. In fact, Blyth’s wind vane self-steering was smashed in a storm off Cape Horn, and Blyth had to steer his 59ft yacht by hand for the remaining 20,000 miles.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said, “Francis Chichester, Alec Rose, myself and Chay were the pathfinders when the Brits dominated this form of ocean sailing, which led to a lot of people taking up the sport.”

Mike Golding, a former fireman who has completed six circumnavigations is one of these. “Sir Chay’s voyage excited me enough to get sailing and has shaped my career ever since. The continuing success achieved this last week by Team GB sailors at the Tokyo Olympics may not have been nearly so good had these pioneers like Sir Chay and Sir Robin not excited so many to buy boats and get afloat, for it is their children or grandchildren that are now leading the charge in international sailing. We have a great deal to thank them for and today is marked in the history of our sport.