Chay Blyth

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Sir Charles Blyth
Born (1940-05-14) 14 May 1940 (age 78)
Known forFirst person to sail single-handed non-stop westwards around the world

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.

Early life[edit]

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.

Rowing and sailing career[edit]

In 1966, whilst 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).

In 1968, with no sailing experience, he competed in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, aboard a 30 ft yacht called Dytiscus retiring 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]

In 1971, Blyth 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).

In 1973, Blyth 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, and in 1978 won the Round Britain Race in the yacht Great Britain IV 1981 - Entered the Whitbread race again in the yacht “United Friendly” and was the first British yacht to finish.

1981 – On the yacht “Brittany Ferries GB” won the Two Handed Trans Atlantic Race with Co Skipper Rob James in record time. Came second again in the Round the Island Race (IoW).

1982 – Came second overall and first in class in The Round Britain and Ireland Race on “Brittany Ferries GB”.

1984 – Capsized off Cape Horn aboard the trimaran “Beefeater II” whilst attempting the New York – San Francisco record attempt with Eric Blunn. Rescued by passing fishing boat after 19 hours in the water.

He was co-skipper with Richard Branson on Virgin Atlantic Challenger I and Virgin Atlantic Challenger II in 1985 and 1986 respectively, before founding 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 British Steel Challenge was followed by two successive BT Global Challenge races in 1996/7 and 2000/2001. However, a downturn in the sponsorship market meant that the 2004/2005 Global Challenge race set off without a title sponsor.

Business career[edit]

Sir Chay started the company Challenge Business, to operate the Global Challenge Round the World yacht 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.

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 2005/6.

Awards and accolades[edit]

  • In 1997, Blyth was created a Knight Bachelor for services to sailing.
  • A street has been named after him in his birth town of Hawick. It is known as "Chay Blyth Place".
  • 3rd Worthing Scout Groups Blyth Cub Pack is named after him.
  • Awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Technology from Plymouth University in 1994.
  • The Chartered Institute of Marketing awarded The Companion of Honour to Sir Chay in 2000 for his services to the Profession of Marketing.


  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.

External links[edit]