The Royal Automobile Club has awarded the Segrave Trophy to British adventurer James Ketchell, for becoming the first person to perform an around-the-world gyroplane flight certified by the Guinness Book of Records.
On 1 February 2014, James Ketchell became the first person to complete the triathlon of rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, successfully reaching the summit of Mount Everest, and cycling 18,000 miles around the world.
Then, in 2019 and with only two years of flying experience, he flew his open-cockpit gyroplane more than 24,000 nautical miles, circumnavigating the globe in 175 days to claim the Guinness World Record.
Ketchell took off from Popham airfield in March 2019 and flew across Europe, the Bering Strait from Russia to Alaska, then Canada. He landed in 49 mainland US states, before heading back across Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands to return to base six months later.
“Most people think that a gyroplane is some sort of a helicopter, which would have made life a lot easier,” said Ketchell, explaining that his type of aircraft relies on an altogether different technology in which a combination of rotors generates the propulsion and lift. The sensation of being at the controls in the open cockpit is “much more like being in a flying motorcycle than it is a helicopter. It takes a lot of concentration and isn’t very comfortable.” He flew over some of the most remote and coldest places on earth and diced with danger numerous times. The extremes in the temperature were nothing, though, compared with the mental exhaustion. “Flying a gyroplane requires every ounce of focus. These things don’t fly themselves. It was never going to be easy – there was no room for error. It was my toughest challenge to date.”
Speaking of the Segrave Trophy, Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, said: “Lady Segrave commissioned the trophy in 1930, soon after her husband, Sir Henry Segrave, died after breaking the water speed record on Lake Windermere. It was her wish that the trophy would celebrate British nationals who demonstrated outstanding skill, courage and initiative ‒ the spirit of adventure ‒ whether on land, sea or air. We are delighted to award the Segrave Trophy to James Ketchell, who epitomises everything that the trophy stands for. The British adventurer possesses the bravery and self-determination that Sir Henry would have applauded. What an epic feat of endurance, logistics, courage and ingenuity.”
Ketchell’s name will be inscribed on the Segrave Trophy alongside an illustrious roll call of previous recipients including Donald Campbell, Sir Stirling Moss, Barry Sheene and Sir Lewis Hamilton. ‘I never thought in a million years that I’d achieve anything that could be honoured in such a way as the Segrave Trophy,’ said a delighted Ketchell.