A RACE TOO FAR
Tragic? Sad? Inspiring? All these questions come to mind reading this book.
In 1968, the "Sunday Times" organised the Golden Globe race - an incredible test of endurance never before attempted - a 'round the world' yacht race that must be completed single-handed and non-stop, going into port for repairs or supplies would mean disqualification. This remarkable challenge inspired the daring to enter - with or without sailing experience.
Our President, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, was the winner and his strength of character to carry on, repairing, making do, is inspiring.
A Race Too Far" is the incredible story of how the race unfolded, and how it became a tragedy for many involved. Of the nine sailors who started the race, four realised the madness of the undertaking and pulled out within weeks. The remaining five each have their own remarkable story. Chay Blyth, fresh from rowing the Atlantic with John Ridgway, had no sailing experience but managed to sail round the Cape of Good Hope before retiring. Nigel Tetley sank whilst in the lead with 1,100 nautical miles to go, surviving but dying in tragic circumstances two years later. Donald Crowhurst began showing signs of mental illness and tried to fake a round the world voyage. His boat was discovered adrift in an apparent suicide, but his body was never found. Bernard Moitessier abandoned the race whilst in a strong position and carried on to Tahiti, where he settled and fathered a child by a local woman despite having a wife and family in Paris. Robin Knox-Johnston was the only one to complete the race.
For sailors it reminds one of the days of no GPS or satellite web and phone communications. Bernard Moitessier was offered a radio by the Sunday Times but preferred to stay with his then current method of communication, using a catapult to fire notes and film onto passing ships, not realising there would be few passing ships on his route. Were yachtsmen ever so naive in their preparation? But as Chris Eakin explains there was no technology available except unreliable radios to use in this race. No one knew for sure where these yachtsmen were in the world. And even when the race was finished, was there a cover up story by the Sunday Times of what really happened in the race? It is sobering to compare this solitary life with the sophisticated technology used in yacht racing today or much more modestly by we pleasure sailors.
Chris Eakin achieves a balance between detail, research, interviews with surviving family, news reports of the day and authenticity along with an exciting story and developing saga that unfolds with each chapter. Sailors in particular will find it a fascinating read.