BRITISH sailing legend Sir Robin Knox Johnston, the first man to sail round the world single-handed and without stopping, is going racing again today as he sets off from Saint-Malo with 90 other yachts in the Route de Rhum race to Guadeloupe.
The 75-year-old says “In my head, I’m 45” and adds he is doing it: “Because I bloody well want to! I’m not yet ready for the pipe, slippers and TV!”
It will be his first race since going round the world in the Velux 5 Oceans race in 2006-7 and 24 years since he last attempted the Route de Rhum.
This year’s race sets off at 14.00 from Pointe de Grouin and arrives 3,542 miles later in Pointe-à-Pitre – with organisers hoping for a repeat of the very first race in 1974 when Mike Birch won by just 98 seconds from Michel Malinovski.
With skippers from nine nations taking part, Sir Robin - in Grey Power, sail number GBR 300X - joins three other Britons: Conrad Humphreys (No 132) in Cat Phones, who came seventh in the Vendée Globe 2004-5; Miranda Merron (No 101) in the Pogo S2 Campagne de France, and Philippa Hutton-Squire (no 52) in Swish, a Rogers Class 40.
The race has all levels of racers from pure professionals such as Transat Jacques Vabre winner Loïck Peyron (no19) and Vendée Globe winner François Gabart (no31), right down to amateurs who have put together a budget of €15,000 to race their own yachts.
Sir Robin told race organisers: “In Britain we don't get the coverage in the media, that is why we only have four Brits here. A sponsor will only put money into this something because he wants a return on it. In Britain, TV still perceives sailing as non televisual. I did the Today programme last year and the researcher was telling me that sailing is elitist.
“And I say so is driving, there are people out there with Rolls-Royces. Go to a sailing club and you'll see there is nothing elitist about it.”
“I have no clue what this will cost me. I have worked hard all my life. I have saved some money and I want to go and do this race. I am spending some money to do it. I have not stopped to think about it, I will get the boat ready and go racing. I just get on with it.”
“It is getting harder for everyone. I am afraid that is the way life is. Until we get media coverage and an interest like there is here in France, then we will struggle. Where are all the British media here?”