[ 24 August 2018 ]

In how many areas does Britain truly excel on the world stage? Answer: a lot. In the ninth of our fortnightly briefings, we push the boat out.


World's best Olympians

The British Sailing Team is the most successful national Olympic sailing team of all time’. This includes 58 Olympic medals (28 golds), plus dozens more achievements in world-class competition.

America's Cup - made in England

Meanwhile, Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor ever, now runs the British challenge for the America’s Cup. He recently secured an astonishing $217 million in funding from Ineos, Britain’s largest privately held company, to fund his next go at the next cup in 2021. The first America’s Cup was first held off the Isle of Wight in 1851. It was won by the US yacht ‘America’ and has never returned to Britain.

What's the latest?

In August, Britain’s women’s Team Mac defended their world record title at the Women’s Match Racing World Championships in Russia.

Does Britain build anything?

The British remain pretty good at designing and manufacturing yachts. Travel along the south coast - from the Solent to Devon and Cornwall - and you'll find many of the world's most advanced and competitive craft being built. Superyachts from around the world go to be refitted at the Pendennis yards in Falmouth. While the world's billionaires buy Sunseekers, built in Poole, and Princesses, built in Plymouth. (More bizarrely, they also buy Fairlines, built in, er, Northampton.) The "Aston Martin of the waves" is Spirit Yachts in Ipswich (such as the one featured in the 007 movie 'Casino Royale' in Venice.)

"British craftsmanship and design is at the forefront of our industry, being recognised on a global level"

CEO, Pendennis, Mike Carr

Cowes Week

Post a letter to the home of yachting, and it would be delivered to Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Cowes is the largest sailing regatta in the world. Started in 1826, it has around 8,000 competitors and takes place in the Solent, a stretch of water between the Isle of Wight and the Hampshire coast.

Musto and Gill

Established in the 1960s by a British Olympic sailor and engineer, Musto is now the world’s leading sailing brand. It says: “We are British from the beginning, but [our products] are designed with an international outlook so you can be active in all climates, on all terrains, anywhere in the world.”

Meanwhile, Nottingham’s Gill exports to over 40 countries. It says “we don’t just make gloves – we push them to their limits in the most gruelling conditions until perfection.”


Around the world

The Clipper Race is one of the greatest challenges of the natural world and “an endurance test like no other.” Just looking at the home page is exhausting. It is the brainchild of Britain’s Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to circumnavigate the world single-handed and non-stop in 1969. It is run by his company, Clipper Ventures, which supplies 70 identical 70 ft yachts to competitor crews.

Plastic Fantastic

In Feb 2005, Ellen McArthur, a 29-year old from Derbyshire, broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the world. She then lost it and won it again three years later. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is now active in applying the circular economy to the global plastics packaging flows, to keep our oceans clean.


It has been long since Britannia ruled the waves, but Britain’s love affair with the sea has endured. It has far more than its share of records, medals and world-firsts. Perhaps it is an accident of geography (in Britain you are never more than 70 miles from salt water and the tiny Strait of Dover is the busiest shipping lane in the world, with more than 500 ships passing through daily.) But its world class contributions continue because its relationship with the sea runs deep - through established routes, cultural interests, trading relationships and outlook.

Click here to submit


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
or connect with us

World Class Britain Briefing

A five minute read every fortnight. Sign up to our newsletter, and share in our curiosity (and our surprising discoveries).

* indicates required