Knox-Johnston sails into Bridport Literary Festival

Sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is appearing at Bridport Literary Festival.

His insatiable appetite for life shines through in his new autobiography, Running Free, and he’ll be talking about his adventures to broadcaster Paul Heiney at Bridport Electric Palace on Saturday 10 November at 6.30pm.

Tickets, at £10, are available from Bridport Tourist Information Centre, Bridport Town Hall, tel 01308 424901 or online: https://bridportandwestbay.co.uk/product/event-37-sir-robin-knox-johnston-at-the-electric-palace-on-saturday-10-november-630pm/

Knox-Johnston burst to fame when he became the first man ever to complete a single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation of the world on 22 April 1969.

Fifty years on from that famous voyage, he reveals in Running Free the true, extraordinary story of his voyage through life and his second solo circumnavigation in 2007 – at the age of 68, making him the oldest to complete the feat.

After leaving school, Knox-Johnston joined the Royal Naval Reserve before serving in the merchant navy and travelling the world. He spied for the British Government in the Gulf, worked in the South African dockyards, and built his boat Suhaili in Bombay, before sailing home to England.

In June 1968, he set sail in Suhaili in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, and Running Free vividly brings to life that remarkable voyage, where he was the only person to finish the race, completing his journey on 22 April 1969 and thus entering the record books.

Once back home, he set up a hugely successful business and continued his naval adventures, completing his second solo circumnavigation of the globe 11 years ago.

In 1962 he married Suzanne (Sue), whom he had known from the age of eight. Their only child, Sara, was born in Bombay whilst he was at sea. His wife left him when he proposed taking her and the child back to England in Suhaili, and they were divorced in 1967. However, in 1972 they remarried and now have five grandchildren, Florence, Oscar, Xavier, Ralph and Valentine. Sue died in 2003.

In late 2008 and early 2009, Knox-Johnston took part in a BBC programme called Top Dogs: Adventures in War, Sea and Ice. The programme saw him unite with fellow British legends Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the adventurer, and John Simpson, the BBC world affairs editor.

 The team went on three trips, each experiencing each other’s adventure field. The first episode, aired on 27 March 2009, saw Knox-Johnston, Fiennes and Simpson go on a potentially very dangerous news-gathering trip to Afghanistan. The team reported from the legendary Khyber Pass and infamous Tora Bora mountain complex. The three also undertook a voyage around Cape Horn and an expedition hauling sledges across the deep-frozen Frobisher Bay in the far north of Canada.

In November 2014, Knox-Johnston, at age 75, finished the solo transatlantic race the Route du Rhum in third place in the Rhum class. He crossed the finish line on his Open 60 Grey Power at Pointe à Pitre at 16:52 hours local time/20:52 hours GMT after 20 days, 7 hours, 52 minutes and 22 seconds at sea.

Having served two years as president of The Cruising Association, Knox-Johnston is now the association’s patron. He is also a past-president of the Little Ship Club.

Knox-Johnston will be signing copies of his new book at the literary festival event, which is a must for all sailing enthusiasts.