It was after Rod Stewart covered Sailing in 1975, that The Sutherland Brothers became really successful, going on to record hit singles themselves. (Their best known, Arms of Mary in 1975.)
For Stewart, the song related to the homesickness he felt at the time. Like so many high earning British entertainers of the time, he had become a tax exile and had set up a new home in Los Angeles.
Although Rod Stewart had been working on solo projects for some time, he was also still part The Faces, the band formed in 1969 from the remnants of The Small Faces, along with Ronnie Wood, with Stewart himself providing vocals.
Rod Stewart recorded Sailing at the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama. It was part of his Atlantic Crossing album. This was the album that marked Stewart's departure from The Faces. From this point on, he would continue as a solo artist only.
In an interview with Mail on Sunday's Live Magazine in 2010, Stewart admitted that he suffers from nerves when he has to perform live or in the studio and always has a drink before hitting the stage, or laying down vocal tracks.
However, he had to record Sailing completely sober because there was no alcohol allowed. (Each American state has different rules relating to the consumption of alcohol.)
He said "It's the only song I ever recorded without a drink inside me. My thing was always to have a little tipple before I sang, even now, I'll have a Bacardi and Coke before I go on stage. It just helps. But Sailing was recorded in Muscle Shoals which was a dry area.
"The producer Tommy Dowd, woke me up at 10am, saying 'Get down here in half an hour, we've mixed the track and need the vocal.' I was like, You're joking! recording at 10 in the morning? I need a drink to steady the old nerves. I was stuffed because there was nothing to be had, anywhere, and I was terrified to sing without a drink. But I did and it turned out to be one of the biggest songs I ever had."
Looking back over the decades and considering the phenominal success of Rod Stewart's career, it's hard to believe that he should ever have felt nervous but witnesses say that when he arrived in Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in 1975, he seemed to be intimidated by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, sometimes called The Swampers. This group of musicians represents a sizeable chunk of music history, having played at the studio with legends such as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, Glenn Frey and The Staple Singers.
The Swampers even get a mention in the lyrics of Lynyrd Skynyrds song, Sweet Home Alabama. Check it out!
Sailing was a No. 1 hit in UK in September 1975, for four weeks.
A year later, the song returned to the charts when it was used as the theme music for a BBC documentary series called Sailor. The programme was about HMS Ark Royal, a light aircraft carrier - the flag ship of the Royal Navy at the time.
Affectionately known as The Mighty Ark by her crew, the Ark Royal was decommissioned in 2011, then scrapped in 2013, in Aliaga, in the province of Izmir, Turkey.
Despite Rod Stewart's huge popularity in the US and the fact that the video was shot in New York Harbour, Sailing was only a minor hit in America.
In 1987, Rod Stewart re-released Sailing yet again, as a charity single, following the Zeebrugge ferry disaster in which The Herald of Free Enterprise capsized, killing 193 passengers and crew. This time the song peaked at No. 41.
Stewart performed the song at a concert in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales at Wembley stadium, on 1 July 2007. The concert marked 10 years since the death of the Princess.
In 2005, a West Midlands councillor proposed that Land of Hope and Glory, should be replaced by Sailing at Remembrance Day services. Peter O'neill said that although Land of Hope and Glory is a rousing song, its words are too political and as everyone knows the words to Sailing, it should be considered.
Sailing remains Rod Stewart's biggest selling single in UK.