The Circumnavigators - by Don Holm


- 29 -

The Globe-Girdling Gourmet

         The Globe-Girdling Gourmet

         I cannot say for sure what woke me at mid-
         night. All was quiet inside the cabin, but a
         peculiar scraping sound came from forward.
         The port hull had come loose. Worse yet, in
         coming off, the bow of it had holed the main
         hull. I went straight to the radio-telephone and
         broadcast a May Day call. (1)

first learned of the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race on a cold Sun-
day morning in March 1968, while he and his wife, Eve, were re-
laxing on board their trimaran, Victress, at the dock in Plymouth.
The newspaper carried the lead story on page one. Together, they
read it:

         . . . The yachts must start and finish at the same port
         north of 40, leaving not earlier than June 1 or later
         than October 31. They must round the three capes 
         Good Hope, Leeuwin, and Horn. The circumnavigation
         must be completed without outside physical assistance,
         and no food, fuel, water, or equipment may be taken
         aboard after the start.

  Commander Tetley, a South African who had made a career after
the war in the British navy, was up for retirement and he was restless.
The idea of a round-the-world race in a yacht caught on instantly.

   ~ 267 ~

Eve also felt the excitement, and as they talked it over, they agreed
that he should enter.
  As with most entries, he found himself short of time once he had
decided to enter. There were sponsors to round up, money to raise 
at least 10,000 to build the 50-foot trimaran he had in mind. He
approached a builder. Could the boat be ready by September? It
could. He assembled a list of engine manufacturers, oil companies,
food and tobacco suppliers anyone who would be willing to contrib-
ute with the hope of getting some publicity. The trouble was that
there were at least a dozen other serious entrants, and the gold vein
of sponsors that Chichester found so willing was rapidly being mined
out. As the responses dribbled in, it became obvious that most British
firms regarded the appeals as not worth the drain on their advertising
  In the end, Tetley was left with only one alternative Victress,
their family home.
  Victress was a 40-foot, Piver-designed, ketch-rigged trimaran, built
of plywood and covered with fiberglass. She had been constructed in
the winter of 1962, and in her Nigel and Eve had cruised extensively
in Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and around the British Isles. The
boat was in need of considerable repairs and replacement of gear for
such a grueling voyage, on which at least 14,000 miles would be in the
Roaring Forties.                   
  After Tetley notified the Times that he still needed financial help,
the newspaper sent down Michael Moynihan to interview him, along
with photographer Bob Salmon. As they sat around in the cabin
drinking beer and talking, Tetley demonstrated the yacht's built-in
stereo system. This immediately suggested to Moynihan a sponsor a
record company. Subsequently, Music For Pleasure took over as
major sponsor, and the Times story was headlined,


  The departure of the round-the-world gang was not exactly a race-
horse start they were spread out over the summer months. The
Times entry, Robin Knox-Johnston, had left on June 14 in his 32-foot
ketch, Suhaili. Chay Blyth had been dismasted off South Africa, and
had been disqualified. Moitessier and Fougeron had started, followed
in a few days by Commander Bill King. Tetley got away September
16 amid the usual publicity ceremonies and television cameras, with
Music For Pleasure's brass-band records blaring loudly from the
wheelhouse speakers.                         

   ~ 268 ~

  Outside the breakwater, Victress caught a fresh wind and boiled
along at nine knots. Tetley had trouble right from the start. The tri
was poorly balanced with its load of a year's supply of food and gear.
The log speed and distance recorder was defective. To give the
plunging bows more buoyancy, he had to turn on the wash-basin tap
and drain all fifteen gallons of fresh water from the bow tank, leaving
only eighty gallons aboard in tanks, plus thirty-two in plastic con-
tainers. Because he was exhausted from weeks of preparations and
suffering from a nervous letdown, the heavy weather encountered at
the start almost proved disastrous. The first day out, he broke a spar
and had to replace it.
  But gradually he got things under control and settled into a routine
that lasted all around the world, which consisted mainly of eating
and listening to stereo music. He and Eve had put up an incredible
store of gourmet foods to tempt his appetite on the long, lonely
stretches. He started on this by snacking on smoked trout and fresh
fruit, working up to a large roast chicken while relaxing to Handel's
"Water Music." As the days went by, this routine was interrupted
only by sail handling, navigational chores, and keeping regular radio
schedules with the news desk at the Times.
  In between, he would cook a menu such as Chinese-style chicken
and beef, with onions, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, and peppers,
washed down with a half bottle of Beaujolais.
  Once he lost the line on the Walker log, which left only his spare.
He took his mind off this with a lunch of cold chicken, tomatoes,
beans, fruit, and smoked cheese, and ghosted along with the genoa
listening to Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony." When the wind
increased, he took in the genoa and had a supper of rice and curried
  Sometimes in the mornings he felt weak, and attributed this to
undernourishment, so he would prepare a special breakfast of eggs,
tomatoes, brown bread, cod roe, and a milk shake with yeast added.
To aid his digestion, he would put on Sibelius' "First Symphony."
  So the days passed, Tetley dining royally, enjoying his favorite sym-
phonies, while the Victress sailed south down the Atlantic past Cape
Finisterre to the Canaries. On slow days, Tetley would cheer himself
with roast duck and a bottle of wine. Nearing the equator, he took
sunbaths, read books, and listened to stereo music. To tempt his
appetite, he munched on smoked octopus or salmon. He kept his
radio schedules, made daily time checks, lunched often on prawns
with mushrooms and tomatoes cooked in wine. Breakfast would be

   ~ 269 ~

varied with fried trout and a quart of milk shake with dried apricots  I
and yeast tablets. At times, supper would be herring roe, olives,
beetroot, and nuts. He varied his milk shakes with-chocolate and
butterscotch flavoring. There was candy to munch on night watches,
whiskey or wine before dinner. Lunches sometimes would be varied
with Hungarian paprika-stuffed pork, with tomatoes, onions, and rice.
  Victress was a good self-steerer, which left him much time to read,
enjoy music, and to think up new menus. Usually his meals were
supplemented with vitamins and yeast.
  When he ran out of store bread, he began baking his own. On
October 1, he wrote in the log that the day began with music and
ended with roast goose, peas, and a half bottle of wine; and in
between were chicken and ham rolls, orange juice, mushroom pie,
crab, and milk shakes; along with Bach's "B Minor Mass" were
stuffed carp, stewed lamb, baked beans, and red currant jelly.
  He kept track of the other entries through radio messages. Knox-
Johnston was crossing the Indian Ocean. Bernard Moitessier had not
been seen nor heard of since September 1. Bill King in Galway Blazer
11 had lost radio contact. Crowhurst, in the other trimaran, was
making superb time.(2)
  In late October, Tetley felt giddy spells, which he diagnosed as
dehydration and salt deficiency. He made up for this with Chinese
broiled croaker and rice, consumed with lime juice. Feeling better, he
planned a dinner of venison in wine. The next day, he tried out nasi
goreng with prawns, fried potatoes, and kidneys in wine. Then he
relaxed with Hawaiian music. His portable solar still did not work, so
he read Coleridge's Ancient Mariner and snacked on cockles, prawns,
and rice.
  In the trade winds, he began to get flying fish aboard. These were
fried in butter, and supplemented with Polish sausage, roast duck,
smoked salmon, onions, cuttlefish, mushrooms, and stereo music.
  Down past St. Paul Rocks, Trinidad, and Martin Vas, he repaired
his engine and replaced a broken propeller. In mid-November he
passed Tristan da Cunha. Passing the longitude of Cape Town, he
ate the last of his apples. His eggs were down to half a dozen. He was
in the Roaring Forties.                                                I
  In two months, he traveled six thousand miles on the old clipper
route. The hard going had now begun to show on the hulls. About
this time, he found ten gallons of water in the port float and seventy
gallons in the starboard one about eight hundred pounds of surplus

   ~ 270 ~

  Reading more, he finally finished J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the
Rings. He learned that Bill King was out of the race, and that Knox-
Johnston was in trouble. He began to tape silly poems on the re-
  The weather turned colder and more boisterous. He felt moody
and depressed, and suffered from a sore throat and headache. He
diagnosed this as poor diet. Studying the food list, he came up with a
"tiger milk" mixture of Nestle's full cream with vitamins A and D,
Marvel skimmed milk, yeast, and fruit juice.
  The seas began to smoke and roar, building up vicious pyramids of
cross waves. There were frequent squalls and heavy rain. Then would
come periods of calm with nothing but the endless motion of the
  At about Christmas, he was near St. Paul and Amsterdam. He lost
contact with South Africa, but picked up Australian radio stations
loud and clear. There were numerous whales around him, as well as
large fish he could not identify.(3) He learned that Donald Crowhurst
was the front-runner, and that Moitessier had been sighted off
Tasmania on January 2. On January 11, he was south of Leeuwin and
running into gales. Victress was damaged by a rogue sea. The wind
increased to Force 11. The majestic waves rolling down on him were
frightening. He decided to make for Albany, 450 miles to the north,
as he did not think he would survive. The next day, the weather
moderated slightly. Radio contact was made with Wellington. Pieces
of molding were coming off the hulls. He decided to keep on while
he could.
  On February 1, he skirted south of Stewart Island, crossing
Foveaux Strait. Near Dunedin, he encountered a fisherman, Keith
Reid, who came alongside and took a plastic package of films and
recordings to be forwarded to the press.
  Just missing Hurricane Carrie, he continued on, marking his forty-
fifth birthday and the date on which his retirement from the Royal
Navy became effective. The trimaran was now leaking badly, and he
tried to make repairs. He received news that Moitessier had been
sighted off the Falklands there was no chance of catching him
now.(4) Nothing was heard of Crowhurst or Knox-Johnston.
  Becalmed, he was gripped by intense loneliness. He fought it off
with rice, runner beans, mushrooms, crab, and mackerel in tomato
sauce. He scribbled poems and sang into the tape recorder. He
listened to "Violirl Concerto" and the "1812 Overture." Near Cape
Horn he could hear South American radio stations. Once he was

   ~ 271 ~

nearly pitchpoled by a giant wave. A panel in the wheelhouse was
broken. The bilge was full of water again, and rice from a broken
piece of Tupperware got into the pump. He had near misses with
rogue seas. Some of the deck edging came loose.
  On March 18, he sighted Horn Island sticking up through the
clouds. His navigation had been right on the nose. He celebrated
with a supper of rice, fried onions, mushrooms, and a bottle of wine.
  On March 24, he cleared the Falklands and began the long climb
uphill. By April 27, he was off Recife, and the next day north of the
equator again. He learned that Moitessier had dropped out, but that
he still had Crowhurst to beat. It was no longer the same though 
some of the competitive spirit had gone out of the race. He recalled
that Moitessier had told him: "It will be a question of survival. Every-
one who goes around will have won."
  On April 19, Victress was on a course to intercept the outbound
track. The next day, the final drama began unfolding. He found a
large hole where the port wing was supposed to be. The hull,
weakened by six years of use and the grueling ordeal of a nonstop
circumnavigation, was breaking up. He made repairs, and had a
dinner of steak and kidney on deck. Gradually, he closed the distance
until there were only fourteen miles to go, then ten, then five, and
finally, at 6 P.M. one night, he reached the point.(6) He toasted Victress
and decided to continue on.
  But next came a series of squalls. The fiberglass had now peeled off
to bare wood. There was flooding in the center section. Radio contact
was re-established and a complete report made to the Times.
  On Tuesday, May 20, 245 days out of Plymouth, the wind built up
to Force 7. He was 1,100 miles from home. At midnight, something
wakened him. The port hull had come adrift. Water was running in.
By the time he got to the cabin, there were 6 inches of water in the
main hull. He went straight to the radio and broadcast a May Day;
he got the life raft and survival equipment on deck, waded through
the cabin for the log and warm clothes and camera, and the emer-
gency transmitter. Then he was alone on the ocean in the life raft
watching Victress slowly sink beneath the foaming crests. It was a
moonless night. At the first light, he set up the transmitter. He heard
an American air-sea rescue plane reporting his position. In the fore-
noon, the raft broached and got everything wet. He unpacked the life
raft's rations and had a meal of tinned water, bread, and glucose
tablets. Studying the instructions, he found that he had improp-
erly set up the transmitter's antenna. He corrected this and immedi-

  ~ 272 ~

ately made contact with another American plane which remained
overhead circling. Then came rescue by an Italian ship, the M. T.
Pampero. Calmly Tetley photographed the U.S. Air Force Hercules
rescue plane overhead and the approach of the ship. He was taken
aboard in a classic example of rescue at sea, along with his log and
films which were saved.
  Eve flew out to Trinidad and was there when he arrived.
  He had not finished the race officially, but unoficially Tetley
became the first man to solo a trimaran around the world, and he did
it in the record time of 179 days. He also sailed the first trimaran
around Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn, and had he not driven
Victress so hard, thinking he had Crowhurst to beat, he might have
finished those last tantalizing 1,100 miles to Plymouth and won the
5,000 cash prize and the Golden Globe trophy.
  But even though he did not officially finish the race, no one not
even those who sail around the world on a luxury cruise ship could
say they enjoyed better cuisine or better music on the way.

  ~ 273 ~

 - end Chapter 29 -

To Chapter 30.


AUTHOR's NOTES Chapter Twenty-nine 1. Trimaran Solo by Nigel Tetley (Lymington: Nautical Publishing Company, 1970). 2. Actually, Crowhurst was loafing along aimlessly at about sixty miles per day in the Atlantic, which he never left, sending false position reports. 3. In this area, on a second attempt to sail around the world, Bill King was attacked by a whale or killer whale, his vessel stove in, and he was barely able to limp into port. 4. Tetley did not learn until weeks later that Moitessier had dropped out of the race after passing the Falklands. 5. Although Tetley was technically the first to circumnavigate solo in a trimaran having crossed his outbound track before he sank the first success- ful circumnavigation in a tri probably was made by Mike Kane of California, on Carousin II. ( See The Spray, Fall, 1968, for details.) In a letter to me dated February 15, 1974, Commander Errol Bruce well- known deep-water sailor, author, and director of Nautical Publishing Co. Ltd., wrote: "Sadly enough Nigel Tetley died a year or so after his circumnavigation.... Bill King is now in good health, but he certainly looked very frail on completion of his circumnavigation. [See Chapter 31.] Of course Alee Rose arrived back in the best of good health and settled down with us here in Lymington to write his book very soon after his arrival in England."

To Chapter 30.

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