Swahili Renaissance «»
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Swahili Renaissance «»

How Robin Knox-Johnston recovered his legendary yacht and put it back on the water...
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The famous yacht, on which Robin Knox-Johnston made his first solo non-stop round the world, was launched again after repairs. Yachting World magazine has published the story of the restoration of the legendary Suhaili, which for many years was drying up in museum halls.

Swahili» stayed for a while «in the National Maritime Museum, where it began to dry up dangerously. «I told them if we didn't kill her, she would crack. They said they couldn't start soaking her because there was a risk of legionnaire's disease. If we left her there for a while longer, she wouldn't be able to recover»," recalls Robin Knox-Johnston. He took over the repair of «Swahili», taking it off the display in 2002.

In the last three years the main part of the work was completed and in autumn 2016 «Swahili» took part in Hamble Classics as a guest of honor.

»Robin Knox-Johnston's repair «of the Swahili was helped by friends and family, including the retired Keith Savill.

«It all took three years. It took us two years to get the old bolts out," Knox-Johnston recalls. - We thought it would never end. The hull and deck wood was in good condition, except for the thick patina of green slime. The real problem was iron. It was Indian iron, but any iron in 50 years would start turning in. Some fasteners were corroded to a thickness of just 1mm».

Owner «Swahili» had to remove all 1,400 bolts and replace them with bronze ones.

«In the beginning, we were able to change just eight bolts a day, working with simple hammers," Knox-Johnston says. - Then we figured out how to use the impact drill, first one, then two on both sides. We started unscrewing 80 bolts a day, so we had to slow down and start putting the bronze bolts in their place, or our old lady would just fall apart».

To remove one of the original keel bolts, Sock-Johnston used Sarson's malt vinegar as a penetrating oil.

«We've completely removed the entire interior. I sanded the wool and hull to bare wood, it's primed and ready for paint application," says the sailor. - We kept its simple layout - the bunk, the skipper's table and the galley. Oh, yes, and the toilet. This time with the door». Lightened in this way, the boat became much closer to the original waterline when it was re-launched, and was stable and surprisingly fast on its slightly lowered sails, its best position for sailing.

«We added a few more wooden floors, the lack of which was a problem I encountered during the round-the-world. This strengthened it»a little", says Knox-Johnston.

It» took 140 days and more than 3,000 man hours to restore «Swahili. «It remained the same as it was, maybe it just got a little stronger and certainly got lighter. At Hamble Classics, it was even a bit too light as I thought it would be. She needs a little bit more ballast to move fast. She's best in the Gulfwind, she's not too good against the wind. You can't go very steep in the wind with her, she'll just stand up and that»'s it.

One of the worst features «of Swahili has» always been the tendency to make rotational movements when the nose is bulging up and the stern, on the contrary, is falling down. This was especially common when the boat was heavily loaded. But on the day when the renewed «Swahili» took part in the Solente regatta, this old sinner was not seen behind her.

Knox-Johnston's immediate plans are to replace the tiller. There's a non-original 1973 tiller on «Swahili». It's oak, but it's rotten in many places. The tree crumbles from time to time.

Some objects remained untouched as a memory of the» miles that Suhaili has travelled«.

«We found a coin stuck between the top of the cockpit and the deck beam that got there after we turned over in the South Ocean. We left it there»," said Knox-Johnston.

If a yachtsman was going to participate in the Golden Globe race in 2018, held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first solo circumnavigation, he might well have done so at the renovated «Swahili».

But his answer to the question about the possibility of participating in the regatta again is unequivocal: «nothing will convince me to do it again».

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