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Stars of the Sea - Sir Francis Chichester

Sir Francis Chichester

Sir Francis Chichester, aviator and sailor, (born September 17, 1901, Barnstaple, Devon, England – died August 26, 1972, Plymouth, Devon) was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for becoming the second and fastest person to sail solo around the world in nine months and one day.

Aged 18, he emigrated to New Zealand, where in ten years he built up a prosperous business in forestry mining and property devlopment, only to suffer severe losses in the depression. He also learned to fly. He returned to England in 1929 to visit family and take delivery of a de Havilland Gipsy Moth aircraft, which he intended to fly to New Zealand, breaking Bert Hinkler’s record solo flight back to Australia en route. Mechanical problems meant the record eluded him, however her completed the trip in 41 days. Finding he was unable to carry enough fuel to cross the Tasman directly, he had his Gipsy Moth fitted with floats, and went on to make the first the first solo flight across the Tasman Sea from East to West becoming the first aircraft to land at Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island. Again the trip was delayed, after his aircraft was severely damaged, he had to rebuild it himself, with the help of islanders. He was awarded the inaugral Johnson Memorial Trophy for this trip.

After Chichester then decided to cirumnavigate the world solo. Borrowing a pair of floats from the New Zealand Permanent Air Force he made it to Japan; but on take off from Katsuura Harbour Wakayama collided with an overhead cable, sustaining serious injuries.

Chichester enlisted at the outbreak of World War II, serving in the U.K. as a navigation expert. At the end of the war he stayed in the United Kingdom. He purchased 15,000 of surplus Air Ministry maps, initially pasting them on board and making jig saws, but eventually founding a succcessful map making company.

In 1958 he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He co-founded, entered and won the first single-handed transatlantic yacht race in 1960, in Gipsy Moth III, coming second in the second race 4 years later.

On August 27 1966 he sailed his ketch Gipsy Moth IV from Plymouth, England and returned there 226 days later on 27 January 1967, having circumnavigated the globe with one stop (in Sydney, Australia), becoming the first person to cirumnavigate the world solo from West to East. The voyage was also a race against the clock as Sir Francis wanted to better the typical times achieved by the fastest fully crewed Clipper Ships during the heyday of commercial sail in the 19th century, (the first recorded solo circumnavigation of the globe was achieved by Joshua Slocum in 1898 but it took him three years with numerous stops - Slocum also took up th eharder challenge of sailing east to west, against the prevailling wind). Chichester was knighted with the sword which had originally belonged to his namesake Sir Francis Drake (the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe).

In 1970, Chichester attempted to sail 4,000 miles in 20 days, in Gypsy Moth V; he failed by by one day.

Francis Chichester died of lung cancer on August 26 1972. Gipsy Moth IV is preserved at Greenwich.

Chichester published autobiographical books, Alone Across the Atlantic, (1961) The Lonely Sea and the Sky (1964) and Gipsy Moth Circles the World (1967).

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Sir Francis Chichester

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