Nigel Tetley, Beaten by a Phantom – copyright Peter J.Marsh
(Continuation of the Donald Crowhurst story with review of the film “Deep Water.”)
Nigel Tetley arrived back in England with nothing more than a small bag containing his valuables and his exposed slide film. He was awarded a £1,000 consolation prize by the race organizers, but quickly found that his story was overshadowed. He had crossed his outward track in the South Atlantic in just 179 days, sailing a boat that he had lived on for several years. It was an amazing achievement that proved a first-generation plywood trimaran could survive the whole Southern Ocean, just as its Californian designer and promoter Arthur Piver had predicted.
But unfortunately, the enigmatic Crowhurst was sailing the same class of boat, so the media wanted to wait and see what he could do. Outwardly unperturbed, Tetley wrote a fine book called Trimaran Solo and gave lectures about his voyage. I heard him speak at the Amateur Yacht Research Society in London. He was modest about his numerous “firsts:” first person to circumnavigate the world solo in a trimaran, first multihull around Cape Horn etc. I remember him joking that his only sponsor was Music for Pleasure-a mail order classical company-but at least they had provided him with some appropriate Wagnerian music to play when he rounded Cape Horn!
Tetley, supported by his wife Eve, envisioned a new 50′ fiberglass trimaran that would radically advance the development of long-distance sailing. He had it built in the latest material, foam/glass sandwich, by trimaran pioneer Derek Kelsall at his yard in Sandwich, Kent. The design was based on Kelsall’s successful line of tris based on the Toria that had won the 1966 Round Britain Race.
The new boat looked remarkably modern and was capable of halving the 313-day solo record, but Tetley couldn’t find a sponsor to finance the fitting out. He may well have felt that this was due to his failure to finish the Golden Globe, or that Crowhurst had “poisoned the waters” for other sailors. Beaten by a dead man, he had missed the boat, and fame and fortune had not followed.
This fine sailor and gentleman also lost his ability to reason and hung himself in a forest outside Dover early in 1972. His new tri was still moored on a muddy backwater when I went to work with Kelsall that fall. (In true British fashion, nobody mentioned it, and I was too young and too inexperienced to realize the sad nature of obsession and fame.)
The only American with any involvement in the Golden Globe was Arthur Piver, the trimaran pioneer from the Bay Area. His boats were phenomenally popular in the late 60s, and he had absolute confidence in their ability to survive bad weather. Unfortunately, he had already disappeared at sea. He was last seen in 1967 off the northern California coast while completing a 500-mile qualifying cruise for the 1968 OSTAR in a borrowed 24′ tri.
In the winter of ’68, I visited Cox Marine, his British agent, and found his own yacht, the 33′ Stiletto, laid up where he had left it the previous year. D.H “Nobby” Clarke was Piver’s European agent and the man behind the early trimaran movement in England. He died in September 2007 at the age of 88.
Theround-the-world mania really began in 1967, with newsreel footage of Francis Chichester rounding Cape Horn in a raging storm, then returning to England a national hero. This was the landmark event that electrified the sailing world and thrust ocean voyaging into the international media spotlight. Britain was swept by a wave of patriotism that was comparable to Beatlemania and was dubbed “Chichesteria.”
Chichester had circumnavigated the globe along the clipper ship route in the 53′ Gipsy Moth IV, stopping only in Australia. In 1968, Alec Rose duplicated his feat. Both men had previously proved their ability by finishing the 1964 Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race and were knighted by Queen Elizabeth. (“A New Elizabethan Age” was one newspaper headline.)
Even before Chichester had made his triumphant return, Robin Knox-Johnston had been discussing a design suitable for a non-stop voyage with Colin Mudie, then the radical Galway Blazer was displayed at the London Boat Show in January 1968. So the Sunday Times, which had profited greatly from its sponsorship of Chichester, decided to take advantage of the situation with the announcement of the Golden Globe non-stop race.
The stories of Know-Johnson’s success and Crowhurst’s failure live on, but the rest of the English contingent all went on to achieve greater things. Chay Blyth sailed back to England in his small boat with his wife and wrote a book about his adventure. Just two years later, he showed that there are always new “firsts” to achieve by sailing around the world non-stop in the opposite direction–against the winds and currents in under 300 days.
He led a British army crew around the world to line honors in the first Whitbread Race in 1973. In 1993, he founded the Challenge Business and built a fleet of yachts to provide paying berths in a “wrong-way” race very four years. (The company organized many more events before running out of funding and going bankrupt in 2005.)
John Ridgeway set up an outdoor training school in the Scottish Isles, and skippered the school’s 57′ ketch in the Whitbread Race in 1977. In 1983, he sailed the boat around the world again–non-stop with one crew in 203 days–a record of some sort.
On his second attempt around the world, Bill King’s boat was struck by a whale and almost sank, but he patched the hole and reached Australia. He wouldn’t give up and in 1973 became the first Irishman to sail around the world alone. He took up hang-gliding at the age of 78 and was still active at age 96.
He sold Galway Blazer to Peter Crowther, a pub owner from Devon, who completed three OSTARs. In 1996, the boat dropped off a wave and began to take on water rapidly. Crowther got off a distress signal and was rescued from his dinghy by a passing ship.
To mark the 40th anniversary of their great voyages, Gypsy Moth IV and Lively Lady were both restored and cruised around the world via the Panama Canal by young sailors.
Robin Knox-Johnston has had many sailing adventures since the Golden Globe. In the 1970s and 80s, he raced big yachts and multihulls around Britain and across the Atlantic. He was knighted for his services to sailing in 1996, after he co-skippered the 92′ catamaran Enza around the world in 74 days. In 1995 he founded Clipper Ventures, a business that runs round-the-world races for paying amateurs and recently acquired the Around Alone (formerly BOC race), now called the Five Oceans.
Knox-Johnson entered the race himself last year at the age of 67 and sailed his Open 60 to third place. Suhaili is berthed at the National Maritime Museum’s dock in Falmouth. In 2014, at the age of 75, he did it again with a third place in the Open Class of the Route du Rhum.
Bernard Moitessier settled in Tahiti to write the book The Long Way about the race. To reach the Society Islands, his wife took a berth on a French yacht entered in the Los Angeles-Tahiti race. But when they were finally re-united, she found her husband a changed man.
He met a young woman who also arrived by yacht and they spent several years in Polynesia on a small inhabited atoll, where they built a house, planted coconut trees, and had a child. Bernard sailed alone to the Bay Area, gave some lectures, and lived in the U. S. for a time before heading south to Baja Mexico.
In 1982, Joshua was among the many anchored cruisers at Cabo San Lucas that were thrown onto the beach during a short-lived storm. Moitessier did not feel he had the strength to begin salvaging his faithful steel boat, so he gave it to a couple of young Americans. An appeal was launched in the Bay Area and a smaller steel boat was finished for him to continue cruising.
He died in 1994, but his books are still popular today and his philosophy of low-impact sailing is becoming popular again. Fortunately, the significance of Joshua was appreciated. It was shipped back to France and now sails out of the La Rochelle Maritime Museum. (Sister ships of Joshua like Northern Lights and Aurore have made many long voyages, including to the Arctic and Antarctic.)
The Teignmouth Electron was hoisted on board the Royal Mail Ship Picardy and unloaded in the Caribbean. It was auctioned and bought by a Jamaican who used it to carry tourists. After ten years service, it was sold to a dive operator in the Caymans and worked for another decade before being damaged in a hurricane. It was hauled up on a beach in 1988 on Cayman Brac, where it has sat ever since, slowly disintegrating in the tropical sun.The 1968-69 Golden Globe
Robin Knox-Johnston (Suhaili 32ft) 14 Jun–Finished, Falmouth, 22 April 1969
John Ridgeway (English Rose 32 ft) 1 Jun–21 July, Recife
Chay Blyth (Dytiscus 30 ft) 8 Jun–15 Aug, Tristran da Cunha
Alex Caruzzo (Gancia Americana 66ft) 31 Oct–Became ill, mid-November, Lisbon
Bill King (Galway Blazer 42ft) 24 Aug–22 Nov Cape Town
Loick Fougeron (Captain Browne 30ft) 22 Aug–27 Nov, St Helena
Bernard Moitessier (Joshua 40ft) 22 Aug–Retired from the race, but continued non-stop to Tahiti.
Nigel Tetley (Music for Pleasure 40ft) 16 Sept–Foundered off the Azores May 1969
Donald Crowhurst (Teignmouth Electron 40ft) 31 Oct–lost at sea, July 1969