There were many famous English sailors throughout history. Among them was Horatio Nelson, one of the most famous and successful British flag officers in the Royal Navy. Another famous sailor was Sir Francis Drake, famous for circumnavigating the globe. Queen Elizabeth rewarded him for his success, and later earned a knighthood.
The most famous English sailor was Francis Drake, who completed the first circumnavigation of the globe and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I. His voyages across the Atlantic opened up new lands for European exploration and colonization, but they also caused great tension between England and Spain.
In 1572, Drake obtained a privateer’s commission from Queen Elizabeth, which allowed him to plunder Spanish ships and cargoes in the Americas. He became particularly known for his raids on Spanish ports along the west coast of South America, a significant source of Spanish wealth.
Drake sailed from Plymouth in 1577 with a fleet of five ships and headed south and west through the Straits of Magellan. He then sailed north, seeking the Northwest Passage. The voyage was a difficult one, marked by storms and mutiny.
Sir John Hawkins
Born in Plymouth, England, Sir John Hawkins was a seafarer and a slave trader. He was an influential leader in the development of the Atlantic slave trade. He was also a famous pirate who had many adventures in the sea. He was a cousin of Sir Francis Drake, and the two men often worked together on sailing expeditions.
As a slave trader, he successfully transported 301 Africans to the Caribbean islands. This angered the Spanish and caused them to ban English ships from trading in their West Indies colonies. He later became a naval commander and an administrator and began to build fast, streamlined, yet well-armed vessels that could easily withstand battle. These ships were a major influence on the design of later frigates.
Sir Francis l’Olonnais
Francis l’Olonnais, or Jean-David Nau as he is known in Exquemelin’s Buccaneers of America (though many people today call him Long Ben), was one of the most infamous buccaneers of his time. He terrorized Spanish ships and coastal settlements with a reputation for extreme cruelty.
He was a master at torturing his victims, according to 17th-century pirate historian Alexander Exquemelin. He cut their tongues, hacked them to pieces, and squeezed a cord around their necks until their eyes popped out.
After he and his crew were shipwrecked off the coast of Panama, they ventured inland in search of food. But the natives soon caught them and killed them and ate them. Fortunately, only a few men managed to survive and escape. After returning to Tortuga, he built another crew and planned an attack on Maracaibo in modern-day Venezuela.
Sir Ben Ainslie
One of the most famous English sailors, Sir Ben Ainslie, has had a passion for sailing from a young age. When he was seven years old, he learned to sail at the family home in Restronguet Creek near Falmouth, Cornwall.
After gaining silver in the Laser class at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, he won gold four years later in Sydney, beating Brazil’s Robert Scheidt in a grueling rematch. In 2000 he switched to the Finn class, which required him to put on a significant amount of weight (some 18 kilograms) to compete.
He won gold in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympic Games, becoming the most successful British sailor ever. He has partnered with INEOS to launch a British team for the next America’s Cup in 2021.