Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Sir Francis Chichester

The Sunday Times reports* that two of its readers have saved Sir Francis Chichester's Gipsy Moth IV with a donation of £250,000. Chichester set the record for the fastest single-handed circumnavigation of the globe in 1967 but the current owners of the boat were ready to sell it overseas. The article states that the Sunday Times sponsored the record-breaking voyage and secured an aerial front-page picture of Gipsy Moth rounding Cape Horn. This is partly true but in fact the Guardian signed a contract jointly with the Sunday Times to take Chichester's copy by radio-telephone.

This method had been extremely successful in 1962 when Chichester had done a deal with the Guardian to relay daily accounts of life on his boat (Gipsy Moth III) while trying to beat his own time for single-handedly crossing the Atlantic.

JRL Anderson, who amongst many jobs was the paper's yachting editor, worked with the Marconi company to develop an experimental ship-to-shore radio system. Chichester's daily commentary - best described as an early form of blogging - covered the smallest details including the progress of a wounded pigeon that took refuge on the boat. Anderson later wrote:

Five years later and the collaboration was revived with the Guardian printing long reports of Chichester's voyage to Sydney. However, the contract only covered the outward journey and due to a financial crisis at the paper, there wasn't enough money to pay for the return leg. With its deeper pockets the Sunday Times was able to buy up exclusive rights to the voyage - a fortuitous move as this leg proved to be a lot more exciting than the outward one.

The Gipsy Moth IV buyers, who are keen sailors and live in East Anglia, were moved to step in after reading in The Sunday Times that the yacht was likely to go to an overseas buyer after being put up for sale because of crippling maintenance costs. They have negotiated a package that allows the yacht to stay with the United Kingdom Sailing Academy (UKSA), the charity that trains children and disabled people to sail. There is a pledge to cover the maintenance costs for at least five years and will also ensure that the yacht is put on public display several times a year.

*Article locked behind paywall. Access details here

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