Most helpful critical review
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
If You Weren't There You Wouldn't Know
on August 24, 2000
I've read this book, I've read all the others on this race, and I've sailed a number of Sydney-Hobarts.
We call the races "Hobarts", not "SydHobs" as Dugard suggests.
The '98 race was not easy - we had over 70 knots of wind across our deck and seas of over 20 meters, so no-one would ever suggest it was easy - but nor should it become a vehicle for an opportunist to score a few quick bucks by capitalising on the drama which others experienced, unless it is done professionally. This book just doesn't meet the grade.
It is unfortunate that Dugard obviously wrote his book with very little knowledge of sailing (let alone Ocean Racing in storm conditions), or of the race. I'm not sure he has even visited Australia, and suspect the research may have been limited to copies of Press reports and a few phone calls to friends in Sydney. You don't get that knowledge through reading books, nor as a passenger. You only get it by being there, and having the responsibility of delivering your boat and crew against the challenges thrown up by the weather.
Certainly given that ocean racing is about judgement calls in a context of nature at its harshest level, only those who are on the water in command of a craft carrying 15 or so other people, who are having to face the elements first hand and in real time, can evert know what it is like. Because sailing in these conditions is not something you can learn out of a text book, it is not something that is mechanical or formula driven - it is about real calls and real delivery in a real situation.
Dugard hasn't done it. If he hasn't done it he is not qualified in my view, but is quite probably what we call in Australia an armchair expert.
From a point of view of credibility, there are simply too many factual errors in the book, starting from virtually the first page.
Some of the errors are appalling, and not simply in the text - even one shot showing the stern of Helsal II is captioned suggesting we are looking at the bow. If the author can't tell the difference between bow and stern, how can he be relied upon to make comment or judgement about how the boats and crews performed or should perform under arduous conditions.
Its like the old Vietnam Veterans joke - you weren't there, so you wouldn't know....
An alternative book on the same race is that by Rob Mundle (A Fatal Storm). A better book, more detailed, more objective, and more accurate, compiled from interviews with a wide range of skippers and crews (and he published the interviews themselves), brilliant photos by Richard Bennett, and written by a man who has sailed a few Hobarts himself, so who knows what the journey down the racetrack is really like.