Why did you become a sailor?

My father spent eight years away because of his job and then because of the war, so it didn’t seem so strange to me to go away for months. And at 8 years old I decided: he would be a sailor.

Was your life decided by an 8-year-old boy?

And he was right: I have never regretted it. At 17, I embarked as a cabin boy with the British India Navigation Company and at 21, I was promoted to officer on the Bombay-Basra route. I studied navigation. I had a girlfriend. We got married on leave. We had a daughter…

When did you decide to sail alone?

I first decided to build my own boat in Bombay and skip the plane and sail solo back home with my brother and a friend. It only took us 77 days from Cape Town to London.

And what about going around the world alone?

I read that Francis Chichester had already given it with just one stop in Australia and I knew that I could give it without that stop.

Because you? Why risk it?

It was daring to sail alone twice as far as anyone had ever done before, but I realized that not trying was going to slowly kill me. And if he failed, he could try again. If I drowned, then I wouldn’t have any problems.

Was it enough to be determined?

And money, of course. I looked for a sponsor, but no one believed I could do it.

How much did I need?

I just needed to buy the food, because I had already paid for the boat, so I made the deal with The Sunday Times to give them the scoop on the trip for money.

Did it turn out to be a good deal?

But suddenly I wasn’t the only nutcase anymore: they invented the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race and we became six competitors. I was the third to leave…

But you invented the challenge!

But the journalists had no idea about navigation and did not understand my plan and it was for the best, because they left me alone until I sailed from Falmouth on June 14, 1968.

Did each one leave on a date?

Because, once again, The Sunday Times proved clueless and wanted us to cross Cape Horn… in October!

Why was October such a bad month?

It would have been an ordeal of storms and a fixed wreck on a boat like mine of less than 10 meters. I set sail in June.

Well done, captain!

And I arrived at Cape Horn in January.

What happened between June and January?

Cracks and leaks in the hull that could only be fixed by diving, so I dove off the equator with the sharks surrounding me. I ran out of drinking water south of Cape Town; and, for eight and a half months, I only drank the rainwater. Then the radio and the engine broke down…

How did you manage to continue browsing?

With the sextant, of course. And under sail. Stopping then was riskier than continuing.

How to navigate without radio?

Until I came across a merchant ship near Melbourne and from on board they shouted at me with a megaphone what I wanted to do and I responded: “Continue, of course.”

And it continued for how long longer?

Four and a half months until I saw other ships in the Azores again on Easter Sunday 1969. And I signaled to them with a lamp and they recognized me and gave the news that I was not dead.

Did you get a message from the family?

And from a pastor friend, who said in the Easter sermon: “Robin has appeared, very appropriately, on the day of the Resurrection.”

And you won, but the one who came second committed suicide and you helped his family…

I’m not talking about that…

Please… it has already transpired.

I had two prizes and I only gave them the amount of one of the two. Your competition helped me win. And, furthermore, I forced The Sunday Times to also donate the same amount as me to the family, who had lost everything in the adventure.

Today with GPS, a desalination plant on board and ships that fly, is there still an adventure?

In races like the America’s Cup everyone has the same technology, so there is still adventure: it is in the competition.

What did you learn on that trip?

That I can live with myself.

What did your wife think?

He threatened to leave me if I got back on board and we got divorced…

I’m sorry.

But we remarried later.

What encouraged you to continue day by day?

To think that if I quit, I would lose all the effort I had made until then.

In his book I read that when everything was going wrong he went down to check the level of cognac.

But I arrived at port with two bottles still intact: I’m afraid I can’t say the same for the whiskey ones…