The Southern Ocean is the sailor's Everest. These are unquestionably the most dangerous waters in the world: hurricane infested, frigid, wholly unpredictable, and so remote, according to Derek Lundy, that "only a few astronauts have ever been further from land than a person on a vessel in that position." Encircling Antarctica, this fearsome body of water has terrorized sailors and wrecked the ablest of ships throughout maritime history. Imagine, then, a round-the-world, single-handed sailing race of the most extreme kind--no stopping, no assistance--requiring each lone sailor to spend half the total race distance (roughly 13,000 miles) fighting this nightmarish, merciless sea.
The race is the Vendee Globe, and The Godforsaken Sea is the story of the 1996-1997 competition. Fourteen men and two women began the race in Les Sables-d'Olonne, France. Six officially finished; three were wrecked and rescued; one sailor performed emergency surgery on himself mid-race; one perished. This is high adventure of the most gripping, perilous sort, demanding a tightly controlled, suspenseful narrative: "Visualize a never-ending series of five- or six-story buildings, with sloping sides of various angles ... moving towards [the sailors] at forty miles an hour. Some of the time, the top one or two stories will collapse on top of them." But Lundy delivers more, weaving a superior fabric of psychology and physics, action and reflection. Even the utter novice will emerge understanding the architecture of racing vessels, the evolution of storms, the physical and psychological courage required to survive five-and-a half months battling the ocean alone.
Sailing aficionados may already believe that the Vendee Globe is the pinnacle of extreme sports. With Lundy's help, armchair adventurers can dig in and hang on for the ride. --Svenja Soldovieri
From Publishers Weekly
On November 3, 1996, the 16 solo sailboat racers of the third Vende Globe contest left the little French port of Les Sables dOlonne for a four-month round trip whose most trying feature would be a circumnavigation of Antarctica. Lundy, an experienced amateur sailor, followed the race on its Web site, on which the race organizers provided regular updates and on which some of the sailors posted bulletins. From the beginning, its obvious that the competitors are a bit more committed than your average weekend sailor. They hire sleep specialists to determine their personal best-sleep periods so theyll know when to put their boats on automatic pilot for a quick catnap. One sailor, Pete Goss, took a scalpel to his inflamed elbow, following a doctors faxed instructions while his boat heeled and all his instruments slid off their tray (so now Im frothing at the mouth, and it was quite funny, really). As Lundy describes these sailors encounters with the raging southern ocean and waves like a never-ending series of five- or six-story buildings... moving towards [the boat] at about forty miles an hour, readers will get caught up in the race and in the fates of the 16 racers. Despite all the excitement, the book has a buffered feel. Quite simply, Lundy wasnt there. Its a measure of his skill, then, that he manages to make the action as palpable as he does, lacing his report of the race with a little maritime history, ocean science and allusions to the likes of Conrad and Joyce. This literate adventure book was a bestseller in Canada. $50,000 ad/promo; BOMC selection; author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.