The Proving Ground : The Inside Story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race

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9780316499552: The Proving Ground : The Inside Story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race

On December 26, 1998, 115 sailboats set out on the annual race from Sydney to Hobart; only 43 would make it to the Tasmanian city, and six sailors would be dead, the race having turned in the worst modern sailing disaster since the 1979 Fastnet Race. Combining the best elements of The Perfect Storm and Barbarians at the Gate, The Proving Ground is a gripping narrative that follows the fates of three yachts, including Sayonara, owned by Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and the worlds second richest man. From the chilling explanation of how an Olympic sailor came to be catapulted from a yacht and why its crew could do nothing to save him, to the dramatic journey of two leaky life-rafts, The Proving Ground is an exhilarating read. Knechts research, which included eight trips to Australia was unprecedented and exhaustive, involving extensive discussions with both Larry Ellison and Lachlan Murdoch and every survivor with two other yachts. The Proving Ground is destined to be a sporting disaster classic like Into Thin Air and Fastnet Force 10.

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Review:

In The Proving Ground, journalist and lifelong sailor G. Bruce Knecht tells the staggering story of the 54th Sydney to Hobart yacht race--an annual event that is always an extreme test of courage and skill in some of the world's most treacherous seas, but which in 1998 would become the most disastrous race in modern yachting history.

Although he was already fifty feet from the boat, Brownie didn't have any trouble spotting Glyn. He looked small, and utterly helpless.... Glyn was already having a hard time keeping his head out of the water, and everyone quickly reached the same unthinkable conclusion--Glynn was going to die and there was nothing to do but watch.... Steve Kulmar was more shaken than anyone. When he first came on deck, he believed Glyn was looking directly back at him.

Of the 115 boats that started under clear skies in Sydney, just 43 would finish. Six sailors lost their lives, and a further 55 were plucked from the storm after the fleet had been decimated by unforecast hurricane winds and 80-foot-high waves.

Knecht's style is novelistic, though measured, with a strong journalistic sensibility marshaling what must have been at times appallingly poignant eyewitness testimony into a coherent account of the disaster. His intended focus is beyond the headlines, and by concentrating on the experiences of a handful of individual crews, The Proving Ground succeeds in conveying the agonies of their desperate, sometimes futile struggles to survive--and offers some insight into what drew them to the sea in the first place, and why so many of the survivors have felt compelled to face it again. --Alex Hankin, Amazon.co.uk

About the Author:

After earning his MBA at Harvard, Bruce Knecht began writing for The Wall Street Journal in New York, where he covered the banking and publishing industries before he became a Hong Kong-based foreign correspondent. He is an avid sailor who has written for Conde Nast Traveler, The Atlantic Monthly, and the Journal.

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