Commander Bill King Dies At 102

On Friday, September 21, 2012, according to Wikipedia, Commander William “Bill” King, DSO and Bar, DSC died. He was 102 and led an active life. He was an author, yachtsman and naval officer.

Oldest Participant

Bill King
Commander Bill King

King was also the oldest participant in the first solo non-stop around the world yacht race, the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. He was the last surviving British World War II submarine commander at the time of his death.


In King’s earlier days he attended the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, and he was first assigned to the battleship Resolution. Later he became the commanding officer of the submarine Snapper.

HMS Snapper

World War II

This military man served on three separate vessels in World War II, was promoted to commander and awarded seven medals during the war. King not only survived the war, but he succeeded his third attempt, in a single handed circumnavigation, in 1973.

During the latter journey, King managed to reach port despite a collision with a large sea creature (most likely a shark or whale) 400 miles southwest of Australia.

Sailing Around the World

In 1967, King was intent on sailing around the world by himself. He had a boat built for that purpose at Souter’s yard at Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. King started the race on August 24, 1968.

King, then 58, was the oldest participant in what was the first organized around the world solo yacht race.

King’s Journey, A Race

King said that he did not get depressed during the journey because of the beauty surrounding him.

“You are…alone with God…there’s no opportunity to sin.”

King lost radio contact during the race, and on October 31st, Galway Blazer II capsized in 50 foot waves northeast off Gough Island, breaking both masts. King had to be towed to Cape Town, South Africa.

During the race, King lived on raw food, such as dried fruit stirred into almond paste and green sprouts that he grew on board. He read through the New Testament, the Qur’an, Edwin Arnold’s 1880 Buddhist writing, The Light of Asia, and Tolstoy.

Bill King was also an author

Additional Races

In 1969 King made a second unsuccesssful attempt, but his 1970 journey was proved successful. King completed his global circumnavigation in 1973. In 1975 the Cruising Club of America awarded King the Blue Water Medal in recognition of his feat.

In 2009, Bill King’s great nephew, Luke Leslie, produced the short film King of the Waves. The film dramatized King’s solo circumnavigation and encounter with a great white shark.


Commander Bill King’s published works:

  • 1958: The Stick and the Stars. (Hutchinson).
  • 1969: Capsize. (Nautical Publishing
  • 1975: Adventure in Depth.(Putnam Publishing).
  • 1983: Dive and Attack. Revises and updates The Stick and the Stars, describes author’s experiences during World War II. (W. Kimber/ Hutchinson)
  • 1989: The Wheeling Stars : A Guide for Lone Sailors. Boston, London: Faber & Faber.
  • 1997: Kamikaze: the Wind of God (Minerva Press)
  • Film Premiere

    In the film there were also interviews with King himself. It was screened before King and his family in Oranmore, Galway, in Ireland, on his ninety-ninth birthday. This was shortly before the film premiered at the 2009 Galway, Cork and Kerry Film Festivals.


    Condolences go out to King’s family and friends.