Chay Blyth

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Sir Charles Blyth

Born (1940-05-14) 14 May 1940 (age 79)
Occupation Sailor
Known forFirst person to sail single-handed non-stop westwards around the world
Cruise boat Chay Blyth on the Thames in front of Vintners' Place. Chay-Blyth-20040918-012.jpg
Cruise boat Chay Blyth on the Thames in front of Vintners' Place.

Sir Charles Blyth CBE BEM (born 14 May 1940 [1] ), known as Chay Blyth, is a Scottish yachtsman and rower. He was the first person to sail single-handed non-stop westwards around the world (1971), on a 59-foot boat called British Steel .

British Empire Medal British medal awarded for meritorious civil or military service

The British Empire Medal is a British medal awarded for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown. The current honour was created in 1922 to replace the original medal, which had been established in 1917 as part of the Order of the British Empire.

Yacht Recreational boat or ship

A yacht is a watercraft used for pleasure or sports. The term originates from the Dutch word jacht, and originally referenced light, fast sailing vessels that the Dutch Republic navy used to pursue pirates and other transgressors around and into the shallow waters of the Low Countries. The yacht was popularized by Charles II of England as a pleasure or recreation vessel following his restoration in 1660.

British Steel is a 59 ft ketch famous for a circumnavigation of the globe "the wrong way" by Chay Blyth in 1970/71.


Early life

Blyth was born in Hawick, Roxburghshire. He joined the British Army Parachute Regiment when he was 18 and was promoted to Sergeant at the age of 21.

Hawick town in the Scottish Borders

Hawick is a town in the Scottish Borders council area and historic county of Roxburghshire in the east Southern Uplands of Scotland. It is 10.0 miles (16.1 km) south-west of Jedburgh and 8.9 miles (14.3 km) south-southeast of Selkirk. It is one of the farthest towns from the sea in Scotland, in the heart of Teviotdale, and the biggest town in the former county of Roxburghshire. Hawick's architecture is distinctive in that it has many sandstone buildings with slate roofs. The town is at the confluence of the Slitrig Water with the River Teviot. Hawick is known for its yearly Common Riding, for its rugby team Hawick Rugby Football Club and for its knitwear industry.

Roxburghshire Historic county in Scotland

Roxburghshire or the County of Roxburgh is a historic county and registration county in the Southern Uplands of Scotland. It borders Dumfriesshire to the west, Selkirkshire and Midlothian to the north-west, and Berwickshire to the north. To the south-west it borders Cumberland and to the south-east Northumberland, both in England.

British Army land warfare branch of the British Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of British Armed Forces. As of 2018, the British Army comprises just over 81,500 trained regular (full-time) personnel and just over 27,000 trained reserve (part-time) personnel.

Rowing and sailing career

1966Whilst in the army, Blyth, together with Captain John Ridgway, rowed across the North Atlantic in a 20 ft open dory called English Rose III. After successfully completing this in 92 days, Blyth was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM).
1968With no sailing experience, he competed in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, aboard a 30 ft yacht called Dytiscus. He retired from the race just past the Cape of Good Hope. Author Peter Nichols wrote that, "Few people leaving a dock for an afternoon sail in a dinghy have cast off with less experience than Chay Blyth had when he set sail alone around the world". [2]
1971Blyth became the first person to sail non-stop westwards around the world, aboard the yacht British Steel , taking 292 days, and as a result was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
1973Blyth skippered a crew of paratroopers in the yacht Great Britain II, which took line honours in the 3rd stage of the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race.
1978He won the Round Britain Race in the yacht Great Britain IV.
1981Entered the Whitbread race again in the yacht "United Friendly" and was the first British yacht to finish.
1981On the yacht “Brittany Ferries GB” he won the Two-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race with co-skipper Rob James in record time.
1981Came second again in the Round the Island Race (Isle of Wight).
1982Came second overall and first in class in the Round Britain and Ireland Race on “Brittany Ferries GB”.
1984Capsized off Cape Horn aboard the trimaran “Beefeater II” whilst attempting to break the New York – San Francisco record with Eric Blunn. Rescued by passing fishing boat after 19 hours in the water.
1985Co-skipper with Richard Branson on Virgin Atlantic Challenger I
1986Co-skipper with Richard Branson on Virgin Atlantic Challenger II

Later he founded the Challenge Business to organise the 1992/1993 British Steel Challenge in 1989. This event allowed novices to sail around the world in a professionally organised race.

The Global Challenge was a round the world yacht race run by Challenge Business, the company started by Sir Chay Blyth in 1989. It was held every four years, and took a fleet of one-design steel yachts, crewed by ordinary men and women who have paid to take part, round Cape Horn and through the Southern Ocean where winds can reach 70 kn (130 km/h). The fee for the last race proposed was £28,750. It was unique in that the race took the westabout route around the world against prevailing winds and currents - often referred to as the ‘wrong way’ route.

The British Steel Challenge was followed by two successive BT Global Challenge races in 1996/97 and 2000/01. However, a downturn in the sponsorship market meant that the 2004/2005 Global Challenge race set off without a title sponsor.

Business career

Sir Chay started the company Challenge Business, to operate first the British Steel Challenge 199293 and then the Global Challenge Round the World yacht races. The success of the British Steel Challenge carved the way for the future success of the Global Challenge races.

Sir Chay is chairman of Inspiring Performance. He also heads the board of directors at train company First Great Western Greater Western franchise. He is non executive chairman of the franchise which was formed to run the new and enlarged franchise from 1 April 2006. The franchise combines the previous First Great Western, First Great Western Link and Wessex Trains franchises.

First Great Western Link transport company

First Great Western Link (FGWL) was a train operating company in England owned by FirstGroup that operated the Thames franchise from April 2004 until March 2006.

As chairman of Challenge Business, he was the mentor for Dee Caffari on her successful bid to be the first woman to sail around the world against the prevailing winds and currents in 2005–2006.

Dee Caffari British yacht racer

Denise "Dee" Caffari MBE is a British sailor, and in 2006 became the first woman to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world "the wrong way"; westward against the prevailing winds and currents. In February 2009, Caffari completed the Vendée Globe race and set a new record to become the first woman to sail solo, non-stop, around the world in both directions.

Awards and accolades

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  1. "Birthdays today". The Telegraph. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2014. Sir Chay Blyth, round–the–world yachtsman, 73
  2. Nichols, Peter (2001). A Voyage for Madmen. Harper Collins. p. 56. ISBN   0 7322 7592 X.