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Issue 80 - A life under sail

Whisky Magazine Issue 80
June 2009


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A life under sail

Dave Broom talks about the ocean wave, true grit,determination and a good drop of malt with one of Britain's most iconic maritime explorers.

Small.” “...small...” “so small...” The word is whispering around St. Katherine's Dock under a clear blue April sky. In the next berth, Oyster Marine is holding an event to try and persuade the diminishing number of City players or any stray oligarchs that what they really need in their lives is one of their yachts, sleek slivers of whiteness, chrome gleam, leather upholstery and GPS systems. But no-one is looking at them today. All eyes are on this solid little hand-built ketch. We catch each other's eyes.

Shake our heads. “So small. Impossible.” Above us is written: SUHAILI LONDON.

She's 32 feet, 5 inches long. That's 10 paces.

Built in Bombay in 1963, she was the first boat to sail round the world non-stop. Even 40 years later you still wonder, how? The design helped. Suhaili was built along the lines of a Norwegian lifeboat. Now, if you want a strong boat, a lifeboat is a pretty sensible model methinks, though I suspect not many Norwegian lifeboatmen thought of carrying on around the world non-stop. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston did, becoming the first man to complete a solo circumnavigation of the globe.

It took him 10 and a half months.

Now, 40 years to the day he sailed Suhaili back into Falmouth harbour he's standing under her stern, reminiscing. What does it look like from a 40-year perspective? “Look at sailing.” His voice is deep, soft. “The changes are phenomenal. 40 years ago, we didn't know what the right boat was. The longest anyone had saile...

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