Submarine chief sailed solo around the world in self-built vessel
BILL KING:BILL KING, the last surviving submarine commander from the second World War who completed a solo circumnavigation of the world in 1973 in a purpose-built boat he built himself, has died at the age of 102.
The British submariner and yachtsman operated an organic farm in Co Galway for more than 60 years.
Having planned to undertake his circumnavigation for many years, in 1968 he became the oldest participant in the inaugural Sunday Times Golden Globe race. He joined the race to recover psychologically from the effects of his wartime service which, he said, had left him a "nervous wreck".
Sailing the junk rigged schooner Galway Blazer II, during the race he lived on raw food, including fruit mixed with almond paste, as well as green sprouts he grew on board. He passed the time reading spiritual writings along with the novels of Tolstoy, and said the solitude did not bother him because of the beauty that surrounded him. He found himself alone with God, he recalled, as sin was not an option.
After the schooner capsized in 50ft waves and both masts were broken northeast of Gough Island in the south Atlantic, he was towed to Cape Town.
A second attempt to circumnavigate in 1969 also failed. A further attempt in 1970 when he again sailed Galway Blazer II was interrupted when illness and hull damage forced him ashore in Australia. Having resumed his journey in December 1971, a large sea creature, either a whale or shark, damaged his boat about 400 miles southwest of Freemantle. After three days carrying out emergency repairs at sea he returned to Freemantle, "barely able to limp into port".
King eventually realised his ambition, completing his global circumnavigation in 1973. In 1975 the Cruising Club of America awarded him the Blue Water Medal to mark his achievement.
William Donald Aelian King was born in 1910, the son of William Albert de Courcy King and Georgina Marie MacKenzie. His father, who joined the Royal Engineers in 1894, served with the 36th (Ulster) Division in Belgium during the first World War. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in 1916, and died on the Western Front in 1917.
King was brought up by his mother and grandmother, a formidable woman who learned to ski at 75 and still sailed in her 80s. Possibly because of her influence, after preparatory school he was sent to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, where in addition to his studies he enjoyed boxing and long-distance running.