The voyage that never was

Ian MacKinnon looks back on earlier controversial feats
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The Independent Online
Suspicions over Lisa Clayton's feat of skill and endurance have been fuelled by previous claims that have proved false or unsubstantiated.

Perhaps the greatest of all, certainly in yachting terms, was the case of Donald Crow-hurst. The 36-year-old father of four, competing in the 1969 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, spent 243 days sending radio messages faking a round-the-world voyage.

However, the electronics company owner had in fact been sailing in circles in the Atlantic in his trimaran, Teignmouth Electron, and had not even rounded Cape Horn. The hoax was discovered after Crowhurst suffered a "mental disintegration" and the boat was found abandoned in mid-Atlantic with the yachtsman missing, presumed drowned.

A less catastrophic controversy raged around another solo sailor, Richard Konkolski, as he took part in another round-the-world race, the BOC Challenge in 1986.

Two other competitors accused him of cheating by using his engine to power him out of the doldrums, when he had made fast progress, though he was subsequently cleared.

In other spheres similar suspicions have arisen. Jonathan Pratt is, by his own account, Britain's most successful mountaineer, having scaled both Everest and K2, regarded as the world's most difficult climb.

But, with the absence of the obligatory photograph on the summit because his partner, Dan Mazur, had left the camera in his rucksack down the mountain, many in the climbing establishment fail to recognise his achievement in scaling K2 in 1993.

Similarly, the claim by Robert E Perry to have been the first man to reach the North Pole in 1909 has for years been questioned and rubbished as a hoax because he had no evidence, save for his own word, to prove that he managed it.