Sir Francis Chichester (1901–1972) was a British sailor and aviator, famed for being the first person to single-handedly sail around the world making only one stop.

Sir Francis Chichester and aviation

Born in Barnstaple, Devon, in 1901, as a young man Chichester was a pioneering aviator making his first solo flight in 1929 to Australia. In 1931 he became the first man to fly solo across the Tasman Sea from east to west (New Zealand to Australia), in a de Havilland Gypsy Moth aircraft fitted with floats.

During the Second World War (1939–45), Chichester wrote navigation instruction manuals for the Air Ministry, and pioneered fighter pilot flying navigation techniques that did not require the use of maps.

Gipsy Moth III and transatlantic racing

In 1958, Chichester was diagnosed with cancer. Surgeons recommended the removal of one of his lungs and gave him six months to live. His wife refused to let them operate and helped nurse him back to health. Her nursing was successful and in 1960 Chichester took part in, and won, the first solo transatlantic sailing race in Gipsy Moth III. He sailed from Plymouth to New York in just 40 days, and later claimed his race entry was part of his recovery plan!

Entering into the race again in 1962 he came second but beat the record he’d set on his first race, completing the journey in just 33 days.

Gipsy Moth IV and circumnavigating the world

At the age of 65, Chichester undertook his biggest challenge yet – solo circumnavigation of the world in his yacht, Gipsy Moth IV. Departing on 29 January 1967, he returned to Plymouth around Cape Horn in just 119 days. It was the fastest voyage around the world for a small vessel, and included the longest passage ever made by a small sailing vessel without entering a port of call – 15,500 miles.

Chichester returned to a hero’s welcome, which was televised globally, and was knighted in July 1968. He died just four years later.

Gipsy Moth IV’s second circumnavigation

In 2004, a collaboration between Yachting Monthly magazine and the United Kingdom Sailing Academy brought about a campaign to restore Gipsy Moth IV to her former glory. She was relaunched on 20 June 2005 and embarked on a second circumnavigation of the world.

Discover where the Gipsy Moth is today