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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
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.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 1999
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 1999
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2000
Maybe if I hadn't just read 10 other much stronger adventure books, I would have been more impressed by this one, but in comparison to these, this one is much weaker. The Sydney Hobart Race is certainly interesting and the weather conditions among the worst on earth, but the writer never got beyond the illusion that he was trying too hard to recreate something he didn't know much about. After reading the review below from a sailor who was actually in the race, I started to understand his point of view. There are certainly some fun parts here: the Australian SAR vignettes are riveting and serve to remind us how strong Austrailia is in this regard. The focus of this book is definitely more in the rescues than the sailing. This book was much less well written (not to mention poorly edited with many typos and inaccuracies) and less vivid than the others. For those looking for the creme de la creme, I recommend Lundy's The Godforsaken Sea.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2002
In 1998, a storm hit the 54th Sydney to Hobart race. In 1999, two books came out to tell the story of it. "Fatal Storm" by Rob Mundle, and "Knockdown". Mundle raced in three Hobarts and covered about thirty as a journalist. His book is based on interviews with people who were there, and often directly quotes the interviews. What about "Knockdown"?
One thing obvious to any sailor is that the author is not. He doesn't sail and he can't understand, remember and tell the things that make a sailing story. He compensates for that just like they do in junk food industry. There they use fillings - substances that provide volume but neighter taste nor nutrition. Much of the book are words that provide content but carry no real information. There are scarce facts generously padded with generic descriptions of waves, wind, struggle, desperation, and dissociated rablings about something like how humane it is to provide shelter for the helmsman, even if it is called a doghouse. Whole pages could be used in a book about a different race--say, Fastnet'79--with no changes required whatsoever. The author hasn't even done the homework to know that the race was never called SydHob, as he very confidently calls it throughout the book.
This padding of information with imagination occasionally goes too far. How can a "true story" describe last minutes of a person washed overboard and his last thoughts, when his crewmembers lost sight of him shortly after the accident? And as if that wasn't enough, there is a hint of a blame on his crewmates for not coming to rescue him. Obviously, dismasting and being upwind in a 60 kt blow mean nothing to the author, but how can he try to pass this for another--real--dead--person's thoughts?
If I had to pick one word to associate with the book, the word would be "indecency". What else to call it when the author writes a supposedly true story, having a very vague idea about its subject, having done little research, and substituting imagination for the lack of knowledge? Disaster stories sell, but telling stories about real tragedies involving real people takes extra tact, care and expertise. Otherwise it's just cashing in on a hot topic.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2000
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 1999
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 1999
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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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 1999
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
on September 26, 1999
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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