on 25 December 1996 turned back during
a round-the-world race to rescue a capsized
fellow-competitor. For the Millennium race
which casts off on 31 December 2000, he is
currently building a high-tech catamaran
Red sails in the sunset: It was pretty dodgy in Aden in the Sixties. Dad was a consultant in tropical agriculture in Aden, Australia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and, rather than farm us four boys out to boarding school, Mum taught us. In Aden, it was an unstable period, and at night we had armed guards around the house, which was shot at once. Dad had a mine- proof Jeep with a machine gun on top. We had this catamaran camouflaged in a wadi (a dried-up watercourse), and the plan was, should things get really bad, to sail out to one of the ships passing up and down the Red Sea.
Mother's pet: It was just like school: timetable, proper holidays, proper structure. The whole thing was geared to O-Levels, and was pretty good. If we did dictation, Mum would put it on tape the night before, and I would go into another room to press the Start and Stop button while she taught Richard, my older brother (I was number two). She taught us attitude, taught us to think on our feet. She would ask, "If there's a fire in the front room, what would you do?"
Plymouth Ho Ho: By the time I was 14 years old, I was back in England, and we were day boys at a boarding school in Plymouth - I'm not going to say what it was called. I hated every second. I didn't work, didn't study, couldn't wait to get out. I found the restrictions of daily school routine a bit petty - it just wasn't me, because I'd already seen a bit of life. It wasn't the school's fault.
No, but I read the textbook: I can remember one geography lesson during which we were studying the agricultural system of Pakistan, where we had lived for two years. I knew that what was being taught was way out of date, but when I tried to explain that positive progress had been made since the textbook was published, I was told to shut up and listen. Well, "sod you", I thought. From that point onwards, I just switched off, and as a result wasted a very good educational opportunity - something that I have since regretted. I left that school at the age of 16.
All hands on desks! When I was in the Marines, I was niggled about not having any O-Levels, so one quiet winter, I did a six-week course in Physics. I was quite chuffed - I got an A. After the Marines, I did a woodworking course, because I needed something in my back pocket apart from sailing. Now I've got kids, I realise how amazing my mother was: she wasn't a teacher, but she did a very good job. My older brother went on to a degree in agricultural engineering, Martin's got a degree in electronics and Andrew's doing his final year in civil engineering. I'm qualified as an Ocean Yachtmaster, but I'd like to go to university; I could really do some studying now!Reuse content