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Countdown Continues in Commander Bill King's Epic Circumnavigation 50 Years Ago

21st May 2023
Bill King suited on deck
Bill King suited on deck

Ìmagine being just 50 nautical miles away from completing a third attempt in the best part of five years to sail around the world solo, and hoping for some wind.

That was the situation that the late Commander Bill King found himself all of 50 years ago today on board his junk-rigged schooner, Galway Blazer II, on May 21st 1973.

His log for that date records his position at 49 degrees 14N 7 degrees 29W at 2000, with 9540 nautical miles on the log (this last leg was from Australia). There had been absolutely no wind for several days.

He was roughly 50 nautical miles from Landsend and 125 nautical miles from Ushant (Ouessant), the Breton island at the south-western end of the English channel.

“He is becalmed from the earlier part of the morning, with winds beginning to pick up around 6am,” Galway Bay Sailing Club (GBSC) commodore Johnny Shorten, who has been analysing the log entry for May 21st, 1973, says.

Bill King's log book coverBill King's log book cover

“The barometer is starting to rise steadily from 1001 to 1013 over the next 24 hours,”he says.

“Winds begin to rise steadily from force two to force six from the south at 1700 hours,”Shorten notes, and total distance run is 76 nautical miles.

Bill King's log book entry for May 21 1973Bill King's log book entry for May 21 1973

The log of Commander Bill King’s third, and successful attempt to sail around the world has been made available by his daughter, Leonie King, on the eve of the golden jubilee of his circumnavigation.

Interestingly, the cover for the log shows that part of it related to 1970, and he writes that the first part was “rubbed out to make space for April May 1973”.

At this stage, King has been able to get a message back to give his position, having had radio difficulties after he left Australia in December, which meant he was effectively missing at sea for months.

His late wife Anita Leslie received a telegram relayed from Portishead Radio Station, Burnham on Sea, dated May 13th,1973 to Captain Coote, RN, Daily Express, Fleet Street, London. The Daily Express had reported on his exploits as the Beaverbrook-owned newspaper group had become a sponsor.

The telegram, which was costed per word, gave his position at 46 degrees 17N and 14 degrees 45W at 1400GMT on May 13th, and said, “Please send message affections Anita and inform West Australian newspaper successful passage Cape Horn”.

Bill King's telegram of May 13 1973Bill King's telegram of May 13 1973

It was the first communication from him since December 10th, 1972, six days after he left Perth, Australia, to resume his voyage.

His position, off the Bay of Biscay, was confirmed in a Lloyd’s Shipping Intelligence report for May 13th, 1973.

Lloyds May 13 1973 position reportLloyds May 13 1973 position report

The countdown to his voyage to Plymouth continues on Afloat tomorrow….

Published in Solo Sailing, Bill King Team

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