As a young man he worked in New Zealand as a miner, salesman, and land agent. Back in England in 1929, in December he began a solo flight to Australia. In 1931, having fitted a biplane with floats, he made the first east–west flight across the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Australia. A plan to circumnavigate the globe by air ended in a crash in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, in which he was badly injured.
After serving in World War II as an air-navigation expert in England, he founded a map-publishing business in London. He took up ocean sailing in 1953 and won the first solo transatlantic race in 1960 in the “Gipsy Moth III,” sailing from Plymouth to New York City in 40 days.