Marking a momentous voyage


One of the most momentous voyages to be made by man is being celebrated in Plymouth.

Exactly 50 years to the day Sir Francis Chichester KBE departed on his first single-handed voyage around the globe, will be a formal unveiling of a plaque to replace one lost during the winter storms of 2014.

Giles Chichester former MEP and the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Pauline Murphy will this Saturday 27 August (at 11am ) unveil the bronze on the wall on the Waterfront restaurant, the former home of the Royal Western Yacht Club, where Sir Francis Chichester was Commodore in 1972.

Councillor Glenn Jordan, Cabinet member for Culture said: “We are planning a major celebration next year to mark the triumphant return of Sir Francis when he was given an extraordinary welcome by people here.

“But marking the start of his incredible journey is important – it helps create a sense of the scale of his achievement.”

Sir Francis Chichester KBE

Garden on the Hoe

A banner with the name of Sir Francis Chichester KBE is now in the Front Garden on the Hoe alongside information boards telling the story of the remarkable voyage.

Giles Chichester, who is the son of Sir Francis, supported the project to replace the plaque from the beginning and donated funding towards it. He said: “It was an incredible modern maritime achievement which started and finished here in Plymouth.

People flocked to every vantage point on the waterfront to welcome him home. It was an experience my family will never forget.”

Francis Chichester was born in Devon and was an adventurer in the air and on the sea, setting records as an aviator and a seaman.

He qualified as a pilot in 1929 and feats included flying to New Zealand in a Gipsy Moth. He made the first solo flight across the Tasman Sea from East to West (New Zealand to Australia) and was the first to land an aircraft at Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island.

At the age of 65, he gained worldwide fame when he sailed back into Plymouth after completing an around-the-world solo trip in his yacht, the Gipsy Moth IV.

Chichester set off from Plymouth on 27 August 1966 sailing 14,100 miles to Sydney with only one stop. After 107 days, Chichester had logged 13,750 miles but nearly abandoned his adventure when the auto-steering device failed and could not be fixed.

A debate in the press raged over whether or not it was safe for him to continue, but Chichester refused to give in, waited for modifications to be made and set off to complete the voyage. He arrived back in Plymouth on May 28, 1967, having set the new around-the-world solo record of 274 days and 28,500-mile journey.

A few weeks after his solo circumnavigation, Chichester was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire for individual achievement and sustained endeavour in the navigation and seamanship of small craft.

The Queen used the sword, used by her predecessor Queen Elizabeth I to knight the adventurer Sir Francis Drake, the first Englishman with his crew to complete a circumnavigation, to knight Sir Francis Chichester.

Chichester was honoured by a newly issued 1/9d (one shilling and nine pence) postage stamp, which showed him aboard Gipsy Moth IV.