Chay (Charles) Blyth was born in Scotland in 1940 and by 1966 had already made a name for himself and acquired an accolade – the BEM (British Empire Medal) by rowing across the Atlantic in a 20 ft open dory with Captain John Ridgeway.
The accolades and achievements kept growing…
1968 – with no sailing experience he competed in The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in a 30 ft yacht, but unfortunately had to withdraw just after passing the Cape of Good Hope.
1971 – he became the first person to sail non-stop WESTWARDS around the world abroad the yacht British Steel in 292 days. As a result he was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE).
1973 – he skippered a crew of paratroopers in the Whitbread Round The World Yacht Race.
1978 – he won the Round Britain Race in the yacht Great Britain IV.
1984 – He was rescued after spending 19 hours in the water after his yacht sank off Cape Horn.
1985/86 – He was co-skipper with Richard Branson on Virgin Atlantic Challenger I and Virgin Atlantic Challenger II.
1992/93 – He founded the Challenge Business, an event which allowed ordinary people to sail around the world in a professionally organised race.
1996/97 – 2000/2001 – The British Steel Challenge was followed by two successive BT Global Challenge races.
1997 – Blyth was created a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to sailing.
2000 – Blyth was awarded the Companion of Honour by the Chartered Institute of Marketing for his services to the Profession of Marketing.
2002 – He was one of the first people to be inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.
It sounds like I’ve just reeled off a whole pile of facts which is of course true – but bones with no meat on is seldom sufficient.
Chay Blyth was a born and bred landlubber – born “about as far removed from the sea as you can get in Scotland,” he confirms, but what he achieved in his career was extraordinary quite apart from being the first man to circumnavigate the world in the wrong direction – which meant sailing against the prevailing winds and currents.
After a slightly rocky beginning, Blyth found his metier when he joined the army at the age of 18. Swiftly advancing to the rank of sergeant, he became an expert in survival. “Desert survival, arctic survival, paratrooping.”
When he heard about Captain Ridgeway’s plan to row across the Atlantic, he presented himself to the Captain saying casually “I heard you were looking for someone to go on this rowing trip, sir?”
Ridgway and Blyth had several chats about sea adventuring, eventually concluding that rowing across the Atlantic would be, if nothing else, a ripping good survival exercise. “We were in it for the physical adventure,” says Blyth. “Of course, we were totally naive. We had done some difficult canoeing, but it wasn’t much against the Atlantic Ocean.”
And the rest is history… but I don’t want to spoil it for you. You have the opportunity of hearing him for yourself at The Adventurists’ Annual Afternoon Tea Party
And if you don’t think you could stomach a cup of tea – never fear, check out The Adventurists website and you will note, as I did, that not many people are drinking tea! In fact, they are fairly unabashadly brazen about Gin being on hand. There will be “tea flown in from the far corners of the globe, the finest homemade cakes, music and performers, splendid venues and of course Gin. No Afternoon Tea is complete without the very best Gin.”
The annual tea party on 5th February in London will be a heady mix of famous and legendary adventurers, as well as fellow adventurists. Sir Chay Blyth will be taking the helm…
Tea will be served at 4 p.m. (that’s the link to book tickets) at the Round Chapel, Hackney, London, UK and will continue ’til 9 “imbibing, eating, chinwagging and watching a spectacular aerial acrobatic performance from No Fit State Circus. Tea will end at around 9pm, at which point we must seek merriment and mirth elsewhere.”