In Focus: Robin Knox-Johnston becomes oldest student at Fire-Aid Academy

Yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has become the oldest student to complete courses at the Fire-Aid Academy – finishing a series of refreshers on his 84th birthday.

Although he’s sailed single-handedly around the world, twice, the academy says he was happy to take part in some marine refresher courses to enable him to be part of the bridge crew of the Shieldhall, the largest working steamship in Britain.

Knox-Johnston took the Update Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats course where he launched a lifeboat into Southampton Water. The update Fire Prevention and Firefighting course included running out hose, wearing breathing apparatus and taking part in a live fire exercise. He was also part of the Update Personal Survival Techniques course where students are given instruction on how to board, handle and right a capsized 12-man liferaft.

“We were very honoured that Sir Robin chose us and were delighted that he imparted his vast knowledge and experiences to his fellow students,” says training director Chris Rowley.

Knox-Johnston says: “I found the courses very detailed, well instructed and excellent revision.

“The MCA requires that the holders of certificates of competency take refresher training every five years. However experienced you may be it is always a useful reminder of the incidents that might occur aboard a vessel. I found the four days spent with Fire Aid very useful.”

In 1969, Knox-Johnston made history by becoming the first man to sail solo and non-stop around the globe and in 2007 he completed his second solo-navigation of the earth at the age of 68.

His seafaring exploits were recognised in 1995 when he was granted the title of knight bachelor.

But despite all his knowledge and experience, he still had to gain his certificates and he chose Fire-Aid, based in the New Forest, to join various courses.

Knox-Johnston was joint founder of Gosport-based Clipper Ventures Plc in 1995 that has hosted 12 bi-annual editions of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race but last year he stepped back from the day-to-day running of the business. Recently Clipper Race announced its skippers for the 2023/24 edition.

Fire-Aid Academy is based on Southampton Water at Hythe and has been in operation since 2011. It was originally on the former RAF Sopley radar station in the New Forest. It trains in excess of 700 students annually and sends instructors to ships worldwide to carry out firefighting and emergency preparedness training and also supplies fire guards during drydock refits especially for cruise liners.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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