Last July 21 a 39-foot sloop named Gipsy Moth III sailed past the Ambrose Lightship and set a record as remarkable as any in a year remarkable for records. Francis Chichester, an English chartmaker, had sailed the Atlantic alone from east to west, had defeated four other rivals in the first transatlantic single-handed sailing race and had beaten by 16 days the previous westbound solo sailing record (SI, Aug. 1).
The story is one which SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has followed with rising interest ever since the announcement of the plans for the race more than two years ago (SI, June 2, 1958). Sponsored by the Royal Western Yacht Club and the Slocum Society, the race proposed a serious, responsible and (to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED) admirable twofold object: "(a) sport, and (b) the development of suitable boats, gear and techniques for single-handed ocean crossing under sail."
"If we didn't have such serious objectives," the Slocum Society's secretary, Richard McCloskey, said then, "the race would be like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, just a lot of damn foolishness."
Only five men raced. With the purposefulness of skilled mariners, each accepted the long challenge of loneliness, weariness and primeval elements. All met the challenge well; all finished. Francis Chichester finished first and won the sporting object of the race. But he achieved something else, which was not in the prospectus. He wrote during his voyage one of the rare and authentic documents of adventure.
October 2, 1960
Later he said, "You may wonder how I managed to do this when I complained continually of being overworked. Daily after breakfast, when I had come through the night and was feeling rather pleased and optimistic, I used to settle down, get out my blue book and imagine I was talking to a friend. I used to look forward to starting my little prattle."
Prattle, to no one's surprise (except possibly that of the captain and the crew of Gipsy Moth III), it is not. " Next week SPORTS ILLUSTRATED presents Francis Chichester's story of solitary seamanship, written as he sailed it—"a most noteworthy and enduring contribution," Editor Robert Cantwell says, "to the literature of men against the elements."