Anthony Churchill, who helped to initiate the first edition of the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race in 1973, has passed away.
It was Churchill, himself an ocean racer and the publisher of Yachting and Boating Weekly, along with Guy Pearce, a race promoter, who came up with the concept of a fully-crewed around the world race that followed the traditional square-rigger routes.
Following the single-handed, non-stop, Golden Globe Race in 1969, Churchill and Pearce published a brochure and canvassed support in the yachting community for a fully crewed race that would start and finish in Portsmouth, England, with stops in Cape Town, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro.
Several skippers indicated interest but there was no sponsor, organising body or yacht club willing to take up the cause.
With the Royal Navy and British Army acquiring a fleet of offshore yachts at that time for adventure training, the Royal Naval Sailing Association would eventually decide to run the race, and was able to secure sponsorship from the Whitbread brewery.
A total of 17 yachts with 167 crew would take the start of that first race in September 1973, on the waters off Portsmouth, England.
Churchill would continue in his career as a publisher, including Seahorse Magazine. In a promotion for one of his books, “Winston’s Island”, he is described as a man of many interests and accomplishments.
Anthony was a history scholar at Cambridge University and early jobs included financial journalism. He founded a publishing company with titles including Ski, Tennis, Subaqua Scene, and publications on horses, powerboats, canoeing, windsurfing, mountains, films, and plays. His own sport was ocean racing and the magazine ‘Seahorse’ is even today that sport’s bible.
Whilst studying at Cambridge, he visited Moscow and its university, defending the Open Market, as Chair of the University Explorers and Travellers Club, and was a representative of the Ballet Club. He was also captain of College Squash.
A Trustee of Dimbola Museum, and the World Ship Trust, he chaired the ASTO Cowes Race meant for handicapped and young people who had not sailed before, and held events for Shakespeare, Omar Khayyam, Burns, Betjeman and Elgar. He started the Ventnor Piano Fund, and was Trustee of Island Concerts, and helped fund the Sea Scout’s RIB ‘Grom’ (named after the destroyer, sister to the Cowes-built ‘Blyskawica’, renowned for ‘saving’ Cowes from enemy bombing in the war).
“Anthony initiated the world’s first true Round the World Race, the Whitbread – now Volvo – race, and others such as the Financial Times Clipper Race. Racing for UK, Swiss, and Hong Kong teams, he sailed with many Olympic medallists. He helped finance an America’s Cup bid, and raced a decade on Sir Edward Heath’s Morning Clouds, winning the Sydney-Hobart yacht race as navigator.”
We celebrate his vision for a race that continues to evolve and attract the best sailors and athletes to take on one of the biggest challenges in sport.
(With thanks to Lizzie Ward, our long-time race history expert).