Michael William Dugdale Mills RicheyMBE (6 July 1917 – 22 December 2009) was an English sailor and navigator, and an author and editor of books and journals about navigation. His first publication, an article about his experiences in a shipwreck, was awarded the first John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1942.
Richey was known as a passionate sailor and regular participant at the Observer Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR) organised every four years by the Royal Western Yacht Club of England. He started in each of these races between 1968 and 1996 with his small yacht Jester. Finishing his last competition in 1996 at the age of 80 he achieved an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest man to cross the Atlantic as a solo sailor.
Michael Richey was born at Eastbourne, East Sussex, in 1917 as the second son of George and Adelaide Richey, one year after his brother Paul (1916–1989). After leaving school in 1935 at Downside School, a Catholic boarding school of the Benedictine Downside Abbey, Richey first planned to become a monk. Richey indeed spent a short time at the Trappist monastery on Caldey Island, but did not pursue this intention. Instead, the following three years he lived and worked in the Catholic artist’s community of the sculptor Eric Gill at Speen near High Wycombe.
At the outbreak of World War II, Richey volunteered, despite his pacifist stance, for military service in the Royal Navy. Richey first served on a minesweeper of the Royal Naval Patrol Service, HMS Goodwill. After the sinking of the ship because of a bombardment by German torpedoes, Richey processed the existential experience of life risk in a short story, entitled “Sunk by a mine, a Survivor’s Story”. The war censorship in Britain prohibited the publication of this narrative, but it was published in the magazine of The New York Times in 1941 and from there it moved back to the UK, where in 1942 this story was awarded the first John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for young writers. Any literary appreciation for Richey, however, did not materialize, and he himself had no literary ambitions later. Only to celebrate his 80th birthday in 1997 was another literary work by Richey, entitled “A taste of the Antarctic”, published and privately printed by Nicholas Scheetz. These are travel records Richey wrote in 1943 as navigation assistant on the auxiliary cruiser MV Carnarvon Castle on a ride in the South Atlantic.
In further missions on various ships of the British Navy and the Free French Naval Forces Richey acquired increasingly experience as a navigator, and finally completed a training as navigation specialist at the Royal Navy’s Maritime Warfare School HMS Dryad. After the war he established the newly created Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN) in London, which he served as managing director (initially entitled “Chief Secretary”, later “Director”) from 1947 up to the end of his professional career in 1982. In 1948 Richey founded the Journal of Navigation, which he headed as editor until 1985 and in which appeared the most of his own articles on navigation.