Chichester declares ‘I shall go on’


It was an astonishing performance.

Already, in his 53ft ketch, Gipsy Moth IV, he had sailed more than twice as far without touching port than any lone yachtsman before him.

And he had freely admitted: “There were times during the voyage when I was terrified.”

But he was talking quietly and with enormous sincerity about the possibly greater ordeal to come after 30 days rest in Sydney.

Chichester came into Kirribilli at 6 p.m. waving his cap. Beside him were his wife and son, who had boarded his yacht in the Harbour.

Then he sat down for 45 minutes to face the world he had left last August through a bank of television cameras, microphones and a barrage of questions from the Press.

Hundreds of people waited at The Gap yesterday, hoping to see Chichester arriveCredit:STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

For a man desperate for sleep, weary of sail and sea, and still not accustomed to the solidity of land, it was a formidable task.

“My legs are rather wonky,” Chichester said.

At the beginning he looked frail and a little confused. One suddenly realised that here was a man fined down to the bone, everything superfluous honed away.

SLUMPED

“Let’s face it,” he said, “after you have been 107 days alone you are not supposed to be quite normal and perhaps I am not”

With his cap off and his wispy grey hair falling across his bead, Chichester for the first time looked all of his 65 years.

He appeared healthy in his sea tan. Yet there were moments when his shoulders slumped.

Nevertheless, with his wife, Sheila, and his 20-year-old son, Giles, beside him, he responded to this new challenge.

He sipped his beer and spoke without pride of his physical condition. “I feel shrunken and sore,” he said. “I feel wizened up and dry.

“1 feel that this voyage may have taken some time off my life.”

He smiled and passed his hand across his face.

STRENGTH

“This voyage made me realise that there is a limit,” he said. “I missed my young strength.”

And he spoke briefly of fear alone at sea. “I can understand how someone could go mad,” he said.

The ordeal of sea-rover Francis Chichester ended at 4.45 p.m. yesterday when Gipsy Moth TV came driving in through Sydney Heads at nearly seven knots.

Chichester's ketch Gipsy Moth IV, pictured off Botany Bay only five miles from Sydney.

Chichester’s ketch Gipsy Moth IV, pictured off Botany Bay only five miles from Sydney.Credit:STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

But it was with reluctance that the ocean gave her up to the safety of Sydney Harbour.

She had taken more than 48 hours to cover the last 70 miles of her trip.

I sighted Gipsy Moth at 3.30 p.m. yesterday three miles off Bondi beating eastward against a north-east breeze.

She was being shepherded by boats ranging from the Sydney schooner Mistral to cheeky outboard runabouts cocking a snook at the seas.

Twenty minutes later Chichester came about for what we thought might be his final run for the Heads. But it was not to be so easy.

Half a mile off Diamond Bay he came around again on an easterly beat and it was not until 4.25 that he began to come in on his final run.

He passed between the Heads at 4.45. And it was then that the ocean, as though weary of this stubborn sailor, threw him off with a huge wave that sent Gipsy Moth surfing along on its crest.

For a dramatic moment it appeared that the ketch would ram an escorting police launch. She came within 15 feet before the other boat changed course and made off under full power.

At last Chichester was through. At sea he had had his moments of terror and truth. Now was his moment of triumph.

The boats clustered more closely around him. The tug Manly Cove hooted a salute.

Gipsy Moth sailed on to Watson’s Bay.

For the moment he was fulfilled, his sea passion spent. A Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron launch took him in tow.

Later he talked about what had made him do it.

He said: “One does these things because one has a certain, nature. One cannot get away from fate.

“If a person does not fulfil his nature, he will lead a frustrated life and be unhappy. If fulfilling it involves him in fear, he will just have to put up with it. “

And with that Francis Chichester went off to bed.

After resting in Sydney for six weeks he arrived back in Plymouth on May 28, 1967, having set the new around-the-world solo record of 274 days. His Sydney-to-Plymouth leg, at 119 days, was the longest ever by a yacht of its class without stopping at a port of call.

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