Heroic Portsmouth sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston looks back on 50 years since his world-first solo sail around the world

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston stands on the deck of his boat Suhaili on which he became the first person to sail non-stop around the world. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston stands on the deck of his boat Suhaili on which he became the first person to sail non-stop around the world. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
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HE WAS the first to sail non-stop solo around the world – and remains an inspiration to sailors across the globe.

Today, Portsmouth’s Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is celebrating the 50th anniversary since crossing the finish line on his solo circumnavigation of the world.

The 79-year-old’s incredible adventure has inspired hundreds of others to attempt sailing non-stop solo around the world – something he looks back on with immense pride.

One of the most remarkable stories from Sir Robin’s landmark voyage was his battle with appendicitis – something he didn’t even know about until a year after he finished.

‘I had terrible stomach pains for about three days and really don’t know how I survived,’ he told The News.

'At the time though I wasn’t certain that it was appendicitis – for a while I thought I had just poisoned myself with some dodgy cooking.

‘It wasn’t until a year after that doctors confirmed that my appendix had burst and then re-healed itself.'

Sir Robin believes that although there is more technology available to sailors now, it actually makes circumnavigating the world more of a challenge.

This comes after Gosport sailor Alex Alley was forced to abandon his round-the-world record attempt after a number of problems on board his vessel, Pixel Flyer.

Sir Robin added: ‘I think sailing around the world has changed hugely in the past 50 years.

‘With the technology available you can look at the weather, communicate with the outside world, radio for help and so on – none of that was there when I was sailing across the globe.

‘Although that does make circumnavigation much easier, it also means that there are more things to go wrong, added to the pressure of racing against other people’s times.

‘What’s more, everyone is much more dependant on that technology that they don’t have the basic backups that I had – so when it goes wrong it is much worse.

‘If the tech goes down they’re in a whole heap of trouble.’

Sir Robin’s advice for anyone who is interested in sailing around the world is to simply take the plunge and get involved, rather than waiting for the ‘right time’ to go.

‘Don’t end up in your late 80s wishing that you had done something earlier on in life,’ he said.

He added: ‘At the time I thought I had done what I had set out to do and that was that. I didn’t stop to think about it too much.

‘But looking back I had so much enjoyment from sailing around the world and have always encouraged other people to get that same experience, whether that is solo or through the Clipper World Race.’