HAVING single-handedly sailed the ‘wrong way’ round the world and smashed an Atlantic crossing record with Richard Branson, a Hawick man is preparing for his next adventure on the high seas.
However, when Sir Chay Blyth hits the water later this year it will be at a somewhat more leisurely pace.
Chay and his wife Felicity will cruise the world for around three years, including crossing the Atlantic as part of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, an event that Chay established.
“We leave here after the common riding in June and will sail from Turkey through the Greek islands, working our way down the Mediterranean to Portugal,” Chay told TheSouthern.
“Then we will go down to the Canaries to join the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers and will go across the Atlantic with a couple of friends, arriving in St Lucia in the Caribbean for Christmas.
“Then we go through the Panama Canal and to the Gallapagos. Then ... we’ve got no idea – the world is our oyster!
“We will just spin around the Pacific for a while and eventually get back to Britain.”
He added: “It won’t be a continuous trip, we will fly back now and then. It will be fun, but the big thing we will miss will be the Borders, and Hawick in particular, although we will be back for the common riding weeks.”
Born and brought up in Hawick, Chay, 72, became an apprentice frame maker at Lyle and Scott. In 1958, he became a paratrooper and from there he got the opportunity to row across the Atlantic with Captain John Ridgeway, his first challenge on the water.
“That’s what kicked the whole thing off,” Chay said. “I became a bit of an adventurer, and from rowing it doesn’t take a lot of brains to work out that sailing is easier!
“So, I went off sailing, and became really quite successful at it.”
That is something of an understatement, for Chay went on to be the first person to sail round the world east to west, the so-called ‘impossible voyage’. He also skippered a crew of paratroopers on the first Whitbread race, becoming the fastest yacht to sail around the world in the process.
Following his experiences, Chay decided to try and make sailing more accessible to the general public.
“I had the idea to build a fleet of yachts and get people to pay to learn how to sail and race around the world.
“I sold the concept to British Steel and launched it at the 1989 London Boat Show. We sold out in three weeks.
“It was an amazing success and it introduced thousands to sailing who didn’t have any experience. We had everyone imaginable take part – lorry drivers, secretaries, ballerinas and dentists.
Looking ahead to the trip, Chay said: “It will be a real adventure. I’ve never done cruising before and though Felicity has crossed the Atlantic, she has never been cruising either.
“It will be great fun, it is like something you would see in a magazine, it is what people dream about.”
Chay is also looking forward to having more time to spend in port on the upcoming trip.
“Every time I raced I used to get into port and it would be a quick turnaround, so I never used to see anything other than the parties.”
Felicity added: “I have done a lot of travelling on land, so this is going to be a different way of doing it for me.
“Because Chay has sailed for so long in all sorts of wind and weather there’s no problem, I just do as I’m told, which is not normal when we’re on land!
“It does sound awfully romantic to just go wherever the wind takes us.”