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Countdown Continues to Galway Blazer II Golden Jubilee

19th May 2023
The log of Commander Bill King when he was still becalmed on board Galway Blazer II
The log of Commander Bill King when he was still becalmed on board Galway Blazer II

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.

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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