England

Sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston had appendicitis on world voyage

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Robin Knox-Johnston thought he was "probably going to die" after getting appendicitis

Sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has revealed he had appendicitis on his famous solo round-the-world voyage.

The 79-year-old is marking the 50th anniversary of setting off from Falmouth to become the first person to perform a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe.

Sir Robin said he was "about 10 days from land" when he became doubled up in pain in the cockpit.

"Had I been close to a port, I would have gone in," he said.

Sir Robin, from Portsmouth, spent 312 days at sea on board his 32ft (9.8m) boat Suhaili after setting sail from the Cornish port on 14 June 1968.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Robin Knox-Johnston's first steps back on dry land were in Falmouth in 1969
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Robin's prized boat, Suhaili, sailing up the Thames from Falmouth port shortly after setting his record

He survived on tinned food and collected rain water but when he discovered he might have appendicitis, Sir Robin "didn't eat very much at all".

"I didn't have the drugs you need to keep it under control so I went on a sloppy diet.

"Very soft food, like porridge and stuff like that. I didn't eat meat. I was doubled up in the cockpit for three days and in a lot of pain. And then it began to fade," he said.

Image caption Suhaili as she is today
Image copyright PA
Image caption The celebrated sailor says he would have left the boat had he been close to port after being struck down with appendicitis

Doctors confirmed Sir Robin did have appendicitis more than a year later when he had his appendix taken out.

The sailor said he would have left his boat to get treated had he been close to land - despite the fact it would have ruined his record attempt.

"It may sound funny, but I don't risk my life stupidly. To me, this voyage wasn't stupid. This was perfectly possible.

"I was probably going to die. I don't know why I didn't."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Robin says he still has a connection with his boat, Suhaili, which he commissioned in the early 1960s

On Thursday, Sir Robin led a Parade of Sail around Falmouth Harbour in his historic yacht Suhaili to mark the anniversary.

The 2018 Golden Globe Race - recreating the original race Sir Robin competed in back in 1968 - begins on 1 July.

Image caption Sir Robin in Suhaili leads a parade of yachts around Falmouth Harbour
Image caption The Golden Globe race starts on 1 July

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