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Knockdown: The Harrowing True Account of a Yacht Race Turned Deadly Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atria; First Printing edition (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671038788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671038786
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,473,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On December 26, 1998, 115 boats sailed out of Sydney Harbor at the start of the Sydney-to-Hobart race. The Syd-Hob is a grueling 735-mile race down the east coast of Australia, across the Bass Strait, and down the length of Tasmania. Known as the toughest blue-water (open-ocean) race on earth, it is also something of a rite of passage for sailors around the world--especially Australians. Aussie landlubbers also follow the race closely, greeting the winning boat with fireworks and a city-wide celebration.

But the 1998 Syd-Hob was no party. Before the race, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology issued a warning for 55-mile winds in Bass Strait, later upping the severity and describing approaching weather conditions as "atrocious." Atrocious proved an understatement. The first storm hit the fleet around midnight, causing many boats to turn and sail for home. At 2 p.m. on December 27, a rare phenomenon called a weather bomb hit Bass Strait, as three massive systems collided. Over the next 24 hours, mammoth waves of 90 feet and higher combined with 100 mph winds to batter the remaining boats. By the end of the day on December 29, the results were in: six lives lost, five boats sunk, many more boats--and sailors--seriously damaged.

In Knockdown, Martin Dugard captures the excitement--and horror--of the doomed race and its participants, though he does indulge in melodramatic foreshadowing at times. Dugard is quick to name heroes; he lays honors at the feet of the men and women of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority for their valiant efforts in rescuing more than 50 sailors. He also praises Iain Moray and the crew of the Siena, who turned around to help save the crew of Stand Aside. Explaining his actions afterward, Moray said simply, "I certainly hope someone would do the same for me if I were in trouble."

Though Dugard raises important questions--Why are sailors willing to take such risks? Why didn't more turn back as the storm hit? Why didn't the race organizers call it off when the weather reports came in? Should the public be responsible for paying the $650,000 price tag for the sea rescues?--he provides few answers beyond platitudes, such as "The history of Syd-Hob is about storms as much as sailing" and the "brotherhood of the honor" of finishing the race. That said, Knockdown is compelling reading for those who like their adventure stories served raw. --Sunny Delaney

From Kirkus Reviews

Adventurer Dugard (Surviving the Toughest Race on Earth, 1998) tells the story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, a sailing event with the appeal of playing Russian roulette with all the chambers loaded. The Sydney to Hobart challenge, which crosses Bass Strait, a notoriously unpredictable piece of water, is one of those hellacious blue-water yacht races that have found fashion in the past few years, though the Syd-Hob is now 50 years old and has already known tragedy. In 1998, the freaky weather that characterizes the Bass Strait was at its freakiest, with three thuggish weather systems converging just as the race got underway the day after Christmas. Rumors were flying before the sailors left Sydney that a bad storm was brewing. The contestants sailed anyway, suggests Dugard, because they were cut from a different cloth: ``It's a gift to be born a natural adventurer. It's genetic, with one brother getting the adventure gene and another bestowed philately.'' When the storm finally overtook the racers out in the strait, tending a stamp collection ashore must have looked like a happy alternative. Ninety-foot waves knocked down boat after boat, great green rogues that sprang willy-nilly from the bottom, slamming sailors face-first into the woodwork, throwing them overboard, drowning them. Dugard is not a pretty writer, but the storm is an ugly customer too, and the bluster of one seems to feed on the bluster of the other, keeping the action at a pitch. Australian search-and-rescue squads eventually pull scores of sailors from the drink, and Dugard quietly conveys the heroism he had draped on the shoulders of the sailors to those of the seamen who have a more noble approach to risk. A thirst for adventure simply doesn't explain the madness of sailing into a forewarned gale on one of Earth's most potentially raging seas. Dugard, an aficiando of bravado, can't explain swagger when it goes pathological, even if it unfolds into a spell of a tale. (color photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Martin Dugard is the co-author (with Bill O'Reilly) of Killing Jesus, Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln. These three books have sold more than six million copies.

In addition to history, Dugard specializes in chronicling the drive of great men to realize their potential. This can be seen in his trilogy on endurance sports: Surviving the Toughest Race on Earth (McGraw-Hill, 1998); Chasing Lance (Little, Brown; 2005), and To Be A Runner, is an inspiring and informational series of essays written from the viewpoint of Dugard's forty years as a distance runner.

Dugard's other books include The Murder of King Tut (co-written with bestselling author James Patterson), which saw Dugard travel to Egypt to unravel the centuries-old mystery of who murdered Tutankhamen, Egypt 's legendary boy king; The Training Ground (Little, Brown, 2008), the riveting saga of America's great Civil War generals during the Mexican War, when they were scared young lieutenants first learning the ways of war; The Last Voyage of Columbus (Little, Brown; 2005), Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone (Doubleday, 2003), Farther Than Any Man: The Rise and Fall of Captain James Cook (Pocket Books, 2001), and Knockdown (Pocket Books, 1999).

For the past eight years he has also put that knowledge to good use by spending his afternoons as the head cross-country and track coach at JSerra High School in San Juan Capistrano, California. His teams have qualified for the California State Championships four years in a row, and his girls team won the state title in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

He has also co-written three books with Mark Burnett, creator of Survivor and The Apprentice.

Dugard recently wrote and produced A Warrior's Heart, a coming-of-age film based around the sport of lacrosse. A Warrior's Heart stars Kellan Lutz and Ashley Greene.

An adventurer himself, Dugard regularly immerses himself in his research to understand characters and their motivations better. To better understand Columbus he traveled through Spain , the Caribbean, Central America, and sailed from Genoa to Spain aboard a tall ship in the manner of the great navigator. He followed Henry Morton Stanley's path across Tanzania while researching Into Africa (managing to get thrown into an African prison in the process), and swam in the tiger shark-infested waters of Hawaii 's Kealakekua Bay to recreate Captain James Cook's death for Farther Than Any Man.

Dugard competed in the Raid Gauloises endurance race three times, ran with the bulls in Pamplona on two occasions, and flew around the world at twice the speed of sound aboard an Air France Concorde. The time of 31 hours and 28 minutes set a world record for global circumnavigation. Dugard's magazine writing has appeared in Esquire, Outside, Sports Illustrated, and GQ, among others.

Martin Dugard lives in Orange County, California, with his wife and three sons.

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As a six-time competitor in the Sydney to Hobart (including the 1998 disaster), I've followed the recent wave of books about the event closely. Having read them all, this is the best. From what I saw, and from what others told me about their experiences, I found the author's account accurate and honest. One for the ages.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Knowing the basic outcome of the race, that people died, etc, didn't spoil the book at all. I felt as if I was in the race at times, but the race was only part of the story. I recommend this book for anyone interested in adventure, or in sailing.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The best book I've read all year. I was on the edge of my seat, feeling the sea spray on my face, getting queasy with the sailors -- Dugard takes you right there! An incredible, tragic journey and an adventure of a lifetime. I recommend this book highly
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As a competitor in the Sydney-Hobart 1998 race in which 6 sailors died, I was looking forward to reading Dugard's book.
Sadly I discovered it was pulp fiction of the worst kind. I understand that Dugard only spent two days in Australia researching the events he attempts to detail. It shows.
His depiction of the Sword of Orion rollover, The Business Post Niad tragedy and the Winston Churchill life-raft story are all hopelessly confused and inaccurate. His lack of understanding of the sea and ocean racing is appalling.
This is not even good pulp fiction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I found that I could not put this book down. Like the recent adventure book, "Into Thin Air," I was riveted to my seat to find out how everything works out in the end for the boats and their sailors. Even though I am not a sailor, I found that Dugard explained the subject matter of the inner workings of boats, their crews and races, without being tedious or boring so that even a lay person could understand it. It was obvious to me that Dugard had done extensive research on blue water adventure. I've bought this book for both my sailing and non-sailing adventure friends. Knockdown makes me want to go out and buy his other adventure book Surviving the Toughest Race on earth. A MUST NOT MISS.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Looking for some lessons in coping with a similar situation. Found a book written by a jounalist with no apparent experience. Amazed that he appears not to have sought competent sailors to fact check. " Sailors are never big on jumping in the water. Most don't wear life jackets or even have them on board" pg103
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have a maximum of 1,000 words to review "Knockdown" by Martin Dugard. I'll do it in three....harrowing, captivating and enlightening. Mr. Dugard has truly grown as an author! "Knockdown" is a wonderful sophmore effort following his autobiographical "Surviving the Toughest Race on Earth". Now I have two desires to accomplish before my passing.....The Raid Gauloises and the Sydney to Hobart Challenge. Thank you Mr. Dugard for persuasivly exposing your readers to life's true wild side!!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Just finished Knockdown by M. Dugard. I did not find his account of the race or the difficulties that the racers experienced to be captivating. I suspect that the problem does not lie with the story but with the storyteller. Advise against purchasing this book, but if a friend would loan it to you, go for it.
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