Home » Blog » Further reading about the paintings » "Roaring Forties", Sir Robin Knox-Johnston – The Story

"Roaring Forties", Sir Robin Knox-Johnston – The Story

Robin Knox-Johnston whilst completing the first non-stop single handed circumnavigationof the world with Suhaili – 16 December 1968.

Order your  copy, signed by this superstar of yachting and Gordon Frickers, a numbered Presitige edition,

 from this web site at http://www.frickers.co.uk/prints.html.

Robin Knox- Johnston, with out doubt Britain’s most famous most distinguished living sailor,  has gone on to create a list of formidable achievements not least being 3 times voted “Yachtsman of the year” and being knighted for his public services.

He’s been at it again, age 68, Robin Knox-Johnston sailed in the Velux Five Oceans Race, racing Saga Insurance, his daily blog was  an amusing, fascinating read.

In Robin Knox-Johnston’s letter to Gordon Frickers, asking if the scene, impossible to photograph, might make a painting, Robin wrote, “As this huge Southern Ocean Greybeard approached, I climbed the rigging to avoid being swept away. For a brief inglorious moment there was me and two masts in sight and nothing but ocean in any direction for 2,000 miles” RKJ

Later he wrote, “To the Frickers family, from a very happy owner of an original G. Frickers painting, Robin K Johnston“. RKJ
This Limited Edition is supervised and signed by both Robin Knox-Johnston and Gordon Frickers, and comes complete with a splendid RKJ quote in the margin.

You can order copies from our Print Galleryusing Paypal.


Robin Knox-Johnston on this historic voyage, was out of contact for nearly six months because of radio transmitter problems, so was also taken for dead. Obituaries were prepared. Robin Knox-Johnston eventually got a message to a British tanker with the help of a signal lamp and by then he was not far from Falmouth, the port where he had started.

It took Robin Knox-Johnston 313 days at sea and more of his life to take the record in an adventure that changed his life.
Robin Knox-Johnston could realistically slice 200 days off his 1969 time.

His first circumnavigation reads very much as a passage from another time.

Although he did say he trained for the Velux Five Oceans Race on whiskey and cigatettes…

Robin Knox-Johnston packed dozens of cases of beer and dozens of novels. He dived off his yacht with a line tied to his waist for the occasional swim. He experienced the sort of isolation that today’s single-handed professionals, with their mandatory blogs, satellite phones and up-to-the-second weather reports, are no longer allowed, even should they wish to replicate.
Robin and Suzanne childhood sweethearts, were divorced before he left on the Golden Globe in 1968, then romantically remarried after he returned.

Very sadly Sue died recently of ovarian cancer after a long illness. “I wouldn’t have wanted to leave her for that length of time to race one of these; wouldn’t have seen any reason to do it,” he said. “But now it’s different“.

When Robin and Gordon developed this now famous painting in 1989 they were unaware of how quickly the sailing world would change with the introduction of the great circumnavigation races, Vendee Globe, Whitbread, Volvo, etc. Yacht design, the yachts and the crew themselves have also moved on rapidly in more than boat speed.

Robin Knox-Johnston’s voyage in Suhaili was truly historic; with a boat designed in 1923 which he built himself at Bombay and still owns.

Robin Knox-Johnston is the last of the circumnavigation pioneers, following in the wake of the wool clippers who’s numbers included “Cutty Sark” and Sir Francis Chichester. Just as there was only one Magellan (first to lead a circumnavigation of the world) , one Francis Drake (first Englishman to circumnavigate the world), one Joshua Slocum (first single handed yachtsman to circumnavigate the world), so Robin Knox-Johnston and “Suhaili” were first to circumnavigate single handed non stop and rightfully take their place on that exclusive historic list.

There will be no more.

This painting, created with Sir Robin, is part of the legacy of our times.

A saga of triumph

Of the nine competitors who started the race in 1968, Robin Knox-Johnston was the only one who finished. One, Donald Crowhurst, committed suicide in the North Atlantic.

Winning or losing do not seem the crux’s of the matter as you listened to one of yachting’s seminal figures explain his motives.
I hope it shows people sailing is a sport you can do from cradle to grave, and I’m not intending to rush to my grave,” he said from his yacht.

Sir Robin’s blog was – is at http://www.saga.co.uk/magazine/TeamSagaInsurance/rkjBlog/index.asp

The story of the first voyage can be read in Robin Knox-Johnston’s book, “A world of my own”, Grafton Books, ISBN 0-246-13410-0

Copies available from Amazon via this web site.
Gordon Frickers‘ copy is inscribed, To the Frickers family, from a very happy owner of an original G. Frickers painting, Robin K Johnston.
Watch your TV and PC for the latest voyage!
You might also read Peter Nichols’s 2001 book, “A Voyage for Madmen, which recounts with considerable verve the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in 1968 and 1969 that Knox-Johnston won by completing his circumnavigation.


This famous painting could be on your wall soon if you order while stocks last, as an inspiration to those who see it and to tell the tale as it really was, to inspire people and endure long after we are gone.

You can order copies from our Print Galleryusing Paypal.


Producing the painting

Whilst preparing for a single handed Trans Atlantic race at Plymouth,  thanks to Mark Gatehouse of Queen Anne’s Battery Marina, Knox-Johnston  had seen some unusual paintings of merchant ships, so asked to meet the artist.

Finding they spoke “the same language”, soon after he had an idea for Gordon Frickers. He wrote, “It would be impossible to photograph, maybe it would make a painting?”

Challenge ! The two had a lunch together then from basic scribbles ideas emerged, they worked closely developing sketches based on Robin’s recollection, known wave shapes and Southern Ocean weather, the appearance of Suhaili etc drawing on their experience.

The result is a painting that hangs comfortably with the finest marine collections.

The limited edition prints signed by the duo represent a significant advance in print quality and printing technology. The images are so remarkable sharp Robin Knox-Johnston noticed details he had not seen on the original.

Produced on a tactile 340 gsm natural white cotton canvas using a 7 colour Ultrachrome process for faithful colour reproduction, guaranteed lightfast under normal conditions in excess of 75 years. These pictures look and feel like the original and are a worthy addition to the best collections.
While the A2 standard print is a popular size, the A1 large size is simply stunning.

An Appreciation
When I first saw the “Roaring Forties” I thought of the famous Japanese print “The Wave”. The horror of a small boat about to be engulfed by the vastness of a huge sea. The difference between “The Wave” is that we don’t know the ending because it’s in the artists mind. “Roaring Forties” however is real and Robin Knox-Johnston sailing “Suhaili” actually made it around the world and back to Falmouth.
W. Trebilcock, Falmouth.

Robin Knox-Johnstonborn 17th March 1939, in Putney, London is the eldest of 4 brothers. His career started at sea in the Merchant Navy with the British India Steam Navigation Company, which later merged with P ” O. In 1962 he married Suzanne, (died 11.03). One daughter, Sara, born in Bombay 1963, & 5 grandchildren. Robin Knox-Johnston has become a master mariner, very distinguished yachtsman and navigational specialist. He is very active in many areas of the marine world and is a Knight of the realm. He built Suhaili while with B.I. in India, has had many other adventures with her and still owns her. She is one of the most famous boats in the story of sailing and still raced today.

Gordon Frickers studied fine art at Maidstone and Medway Colleges of Art and at the Painting School of Montmiral. His originals are widely recognised as distinctive, powerful, subtle statements, poetic yet unsentimental. There is a formidable list of distinguished individuals and famous companies who own examples of his work. He is listed in Debretts, Who’s Who and can be found on the Internet.


Order “Roaring Forties” now from our Print Gallery or regret at leisure!
Is any good fine art collection complete without a copy of “Roaring Forties”?



1969 Awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire)
1970 UK Yachtsman of the Year
1970 Royal Cruising Club Seamanship Medal
1972 Elected a Younger Brother of Trinity House
1972 Member of the RNLI Committee of Management
1990 Silk Cut Nautical award Seamanship Trophy
1990 Honorary Doctorate – Maine Maritime Academy
1991 Royal Cruising Club Challenge Cup
1991 Cruising World Magazine (USA) Medal of honour
1992 Royal Institute of Navigation – Gold Medal for experiments with renaissance navigation
1992 Freeman of the City of London
1992 Awarded Honorary Doctor of Technology – Southampton University
1994 Elected Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation
1994 The Maritime Trust’s Cutty Sark Medal
1994 IYRU World Sailor of the year
1994 UK Yachtsman of the Year (2nd time)
1995 Hon Academician, The Maritime Institute (Portugal)
1995 The Institute of Navigation (USA) Superior Achievement Award
1995 Elected President of the Little Ship Club
1995 Knighted


Honorary Member – Royal Yacht Squadron
President – Little Ship Club
Hon Rear Commodore – Royal Naval Sailing Association
Hon Member – Royal Irish Yacht Club
Hon Member – Royal Harwich Yacht Club
Hon Member – Royal Western Yacht Club
Hon Member – Royal Southampton Yacht Club
Hon Member – Benfleet Yacht Club
Hon Member – Howth Yacht Club
Hon Member – County Wicklow Yacht Club

“Suhaili” Built of teak. Designed by William Atkins as “Eric” in 1923, her design is based on the Norwegian sailing lifeboat designs of Colin Archer. Thames Tonnage 14. Net Tonnage 6.29. Official Number 306242 of London. Signal Letters MHYU.

“Suhaili”still belongs to RKJ and is now berthed, afloat, on the pontoon of the new National Maritime Museum-Cornwall, in Falmouth, and she is still loved, still sailed.

Is any good fine art collection complete without a copy of “Roaring Forties”?
You can order copies from our Print Galleryusing Paypal.

Contact Us to request information about the original.
Return to “Roaring Forties”, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.