HMS Mersey celebrates 50th anniversary of yachting triumph

Three cheers rang out from the crew of HMS Mersey as they celebrated a seminal moment in sailing history.

The fishery protection/patrol ship joined a flotilla of boats, yachts and pleasure cruisers off Falmouth to recreate the welcome given to yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston 50 years ago.

In April 1969, the then 30-year-old arrived off the Cornish port having single-handedly navigated the globe in his yacht – the first person to do so non-stop.

There was a huge turnout 50 years ago for the sailor – the only one of the nine yachtsmen who set out to complete the gruelling challenge – as he returned to Falmouth after ten months at sea.

Sir Robin’s achievement continues to inspire the current generation of mariners both in the Royal Navy and beyond,

Lieutenant Commander William Edwards-Bannon RN

Half a century later to the minute, and in the same yacht, the now 80-year-old was again at the helm of Suhaili as he sailed past what was the finish line of the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in 1969.

He was greeted by jets of water from Mersey, then a salute from the ship’s company.

“What an incredible event this was to be part of. Sir Robin’s achievement continues to inspire the current generation of mariners both in the Royal Navy and beyond,” said Lieutenant Commander William Edwards-Bannon, Commanding Officer of ‘the Mighty Mersey’.

Sir Robin was refused entry into the Royal Navy in the 1950s because he failed the physics exam, and became a merchant sailor instead – and successfully joined the Royal Naval Reserve, serving until the late 1980s.

For his ongoing support for the RN and seafaring in general, he today holds the honorary rank of captain.

The recreation of his triumphant arrival was just one event to mark the golden jubilee of his triumph: a brass footprint cast in Falmouth Haven marina marked his last steps on land in June 1968 and his first steps back aboard 312 days later.

And an exhibition of recently-discovered images from his global journey have gone on display until 1 September at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth.