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Displaying items by tag: Galway Blazer II

“Light, backing -fluctuating” was how the late Commander Bill King described winds in the final frustrating days of his successful solo sail around the world half a century ago.

The log entry for his schooner Galway Blazer II, recorded in pencil for May 22nd, 1973, starts with a compass bearing of 70 degrees, with force three winds given as south-south-easterly and dropping.

The log entry for the schooner Galway Blazer II, recorded in pencil for May 22nd, 1973The log entry for the schooner Galway Blazer II, recorded in pencil for May 22nd, 1973

“At 0900, he notes the time zone change to British Standard Time,” Galway Bay Sailing Club commodore Johnny Shorten says.

“From midday, the winds become light, backing and fluctuating, eventually going southerly force three at midnight,” Shorten, who was provided with the log by King’s daughter, Leonie, in advance of the golden jubilee of the circumnavigation, observes.

The barometer was steady at 1014, and the total distance run was 57 nautical miles.

At this stage, the former submarine commander’s wife, author Anita Leslie, knew he was safe after a radio silence of five months after he had left Australia.

As Afloat reported yesterday, the family in Oranmore Castle, Galway, had received a telegram giving King’s position off the Bay of Biscay on May 13th, 1973 – the first communication from him since December 10th, 1972, six days after he had left Perth.

He had already made newspaper headlines, with shipping being asked to look out for the junk-rigged schooner.

It was not the first time King had been in newspapers, however. The decorated second world submarine commander had been the oldest participant in the Sunday Times Golden Globe round-world race in 1968.

The 1968 capsize off Capetown newspaper reportThe 1968 capsize off Capetown newspaper report

He was lying third in the race in the 42-ft Galway Blazer II when he was forced to pull out after a capsize off South Africa on October 31st, 1968.

Ahead of him at the time were Robin Knox-Johnston, then 29 years old in his 30ft ketch, Suhaili, and Frenchman Bernard Moitessier, aged 32, in Joshua.

Newspaper reports of this, which his family have given to the Marine Institute in Galway, include an interview King gave to Express journalist Michael Steemson - the Beaverbrook-owned newspaper group had been sponsoring him in the race.

The 1968 ashore at Capetown newspaper reportThe 1968 ashore at Capetown newspaper report

He told Steemsom by radio that the vessel rolled in the capsize while he was down below – he was within 30 seconds of going on deck and “would certainly have been swept away and drowned”, Steemsom noted later.

The schooner was dismasted, but King had mended his self-steering gear with a spare wind vane, and had hoisted his jury-rig mast.

“I regret I’ve given up my attempt to sail around the world this year, but I intend to try and get into Capetown,”King told him.

The journalist noted he sounded “tired, but not dispirited”.

In the same newspaper report of November 1968, the Express carried a comment from “Mrs King” – as in Anita Leslie - in Oranmore.

“I think it is the wise thing to do if his mast is gone,”she told the newspaper. “It’s very disappointing, but I don’t think he had any other option.”

“In a way, I am rather relieved,”she said. “No wife could be happy with the idea of her husband continuing in a race like that with a jury rig…”

The countdown continues in Afloat tomorrow…

Published in Solo Sailing

On this day half a century ago, solo sailor Commander Bill King was still becalmed on board Galway Blazer II in the final stages of his global circumnavigation.

This was his third – and first successful - attempt to sail around the world, and logs which have been released to mark the golden jubilee record that he had been “becalmed all night” on May 19th/20th,1973.

The barometer readings which he recorded in pencil (see log photo above) show a steady “1000” throughout the day.

“As night falls, the wind begins to slowly pick up,” Galway Bay Sailing Club (GBSC) commodore Johnny Shorten, who has analysed the logs, notes.

The wind backs force two to three from east-north-east to nor-nor-east, and total distance covered on May 20th is ten nautical miles.

King had been determined to complete the solo sail after the ordeal of the second world war when he was the only British Navy officer to be commander of a submarine throughout the entire conflict.

As he wrote afterwards, his world was defined “by the chart table, the periscope and the bridge, hardly daring to sleep, a most disagreeable place, smelling of diesel oil, chlorine and unwashed bodies…”

He had made his first circumnavigation attempt in 1968 as the oldest participant in The Sunday Times Golden Globe race, but capsized and was dismasted 500 miles west of Capetown, South Africa.

He made a second unsuccessful attempt in 1969. A further attempt in 1970 in the junk-rigged Galway Blazer II was interrupted by illness and hull damage, which forced him ashore in Australia.

He resumed his journey in December 1971, but a large sea creature, either a whale or shark, damaged his boat about 400 miles southwest of Freemantle. After three days carrying out emergency repairs at sea, which have been praised as a lesson in sea survival, he returned to Freemantle, "barely able to limp into port".

After he completed his circumnavigation in 1973, he was awarded the Cruising Club of America Blue Water Medal two years later.

The Golden Jubilee of Galway Blazer II's epic voyage will be marked in Galway on May 23rd, 2023, and also by the International Junk Rig Association.

Published in Solo Sailing

“Fog cleared….BECALMED” wrote the late Commander Bill King in his log this day 50 years ago, during his epic global circumnavigation in his yacht Galway Blazer II.

His logs have been made public for the first time in advance of the 50th anniversary of his global voyage.

This particular entry (above) was made, using pencil in his log, dated May 19th, 1973.

The previous day, May 18th, 1973, he had recorded Galway Blazer II's position at 49 degrees 45N 11 degrees 25W at 0704, with 9406 nautical miles on the log.

As Galway Bay Sailing Club commodore Johnny Shorten notes in an analysis of the log entries, winds started dropping at 0100 on May 19th from force three to force two.

Eventually there was no wind, and by noon of that day the schooner was becalmed in fog.

At this point, the solo sailor was unaware that he was the focus of an international maritime alert, with ships in the south Atlantic keeping a look-out for him.

The former submarine commander had sailed from Perth, Australia on December 4th, 1972 on his specially designed junk rig yacht, and his last radio contact was six days later.

He was on his third attempt to sail around the world – stating in later interviews that he had to embark on a solo sailing voyage to recover from the mental toll taken by the second world war.

King commanded three separate British navy submarines during the conflict, and was awarded seven medals.

He had been taught to sail as a boy by his grandmother, who took up golf and learned to ski at the age of 75 and was sailing into her eighties.

As he wrote in his autobiography, “The Stick and the Stars”, published in 1958, his grandmother would sit at the helm “like a little seal in a red sou’wester”, laughing at the discomfort of her passengers.

The Golden Jubilee of Galway Blazer II's successful circumnavigation will be marked in Galway on May 23rd, 2023, and at this year’s annual general meeting of the International Junk Rig Association.

Published in Galway Harbour
Tagged under

“Atlantic alert for yachtsman”, read the headline in the Daily Express 50 years ago.

The missing yachtsman was the late Commander Bill King of Galway, then 62 years old and on his latest attempt to sail around the world solo on his junk-rigged schooner, Galway Blazer II.

As the Express reported on May 18th 1973, ships in the South Atlantic had been asked to keep a lookout for the sailor, last heard of four months before.

“He would be horrified if he knew I had done this,” his wife and author, Anita Leslie, told the newspaper.

“He told me before he left Australia that I was not to worry if he did not make contact,” she said.

Commander King had sailed from Perth on December 4th, 1972 on his specially designed junk rig yacht, and his last radio contact was six days later when he said he was “very well”.

The former submarine commander had made his first attempt in 1968 to sail around the world, but capsized and lost his mast 500 miles west of Capetown, South Africa.

The Golden Jubilee of Galway Blazer II's successful circumnavigation will be marked in Galway on May 23rd, 2023, and at this year’s annual general meeting of the International Junk Rig Association.

His ship’s logs have also been made available by his daughter, Leonie King, and the anniversary committee are releasing them over the next few days in a countdown to the 50th anniversary.

Published in Solo Sailing

RORC's Caribbean 600 Race

The 14th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 will start from Antigua on Tuesday, 14th February 2023.

The 600nm course circumnavigates 11 Caribbean Islands starting from Fort Charlotte, English Harbour, Antigua and heads north as far as St Martin and south to Guadeloupe taking in Barbuda, Nevis, St Kitts, Saba and St Barth's

PAST WINNERS: RORC CARIBBEAN 600 TROPHY - IRC OVERALL: (Best corrected time under IRC)

2020 - Tilmar Hansen, Outsider, TP52 (GER)
2019 - David and Peter Askew, Wizard, Volvo 70 (USA)
2018 - George David, Rambler 88, Maxi (USA)
2017 - Hap Fauth, Bella Mente, JV72 (USA)
2016 - George Sakellaris, Maxi 72, Proteus (USA)
2015 - Hap Fauth, JV72, Bella Mente (USA)
2014 - George Sakellaris, RP72, Shockwave (USA)
2013 - Ron O'Hanley, Privateer, Cookson 50 (USA)
2012 - Niklas Zennström's JV72, Rán (GBR)
2011 - George David, Rambler 100, JK 100 (USA)
2010 - Karl C L Kwok, Beau Geste, Farr 80 (HKG)
2009 - Adrian Lee, Lee Overlay Partners, Cookson 50 (IRL)

RACE RECORDS:

Multihull record (2019): Giovanni Soldini, Maserati, Multi 70 (ITA) - 30 hours, 49 minutes, 00 seconds
(I day 6 hrs 49 mins 0 secs)

Monohull record (2018): George David, Rambler 88, Maxi (USA) - 37 hours, 41 minutes, 45 seconds
(1 day 13 hrs 41 mins 45 secs)

At a Glance - RORC Caribbean 600 2024

The 15th anniversary edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 starts in Antigua on 19th February 2024.

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