Godforsaken Sea: The True Story of a Race Through the World's Most Dangerous Waters

Derek Lundy

Published by Anchor, 2000
ISBN 10: 0385720009 / ISBN 13: 9780385720007
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Synopsis: "The best book ever written about the terrifying business of single-handed sailing--.  Lundy tells a harrowing tale, as tight and gripping as The Perfect Storm or Into Thin Air."--San Francisco Chronicle

A chilling account of the world's most dangerous sailing race, the Vendée Globe, Godforsaken Sea is at once a hair-raising adventure story, a graceful evocation of the sailing life, and a thoughtful meditation on danger and those who seek it.

This is the story of the 1996-1997 Vendée Globe, a solo sailing race that binds its competitors to just a few, cruelly simple rules: around the world from France by way of Antarctica, no help, no stopping, one boat, one sailor. The majority of the race takes place in the Southern Ocean, where icebergs and gale-force winds are a constant threat, and the waves build to almost unimaginable heights.  As author Derek Lundy puts it: "try to visualize a never-ending series of five- or six-story buildings moving toward you at about forty miles an hour."

The experiences of the racers reveal the spirit of the men and women who push themselves to the limits of human endeavor--even if it means never returning home.  You'll meet the gallant Brit who beats miles back through the worst seas to save a fellow racer, the sailing veteran who calmly smokes cigarette after cigarette as his boat capsizes, and the Canadian who, hours before he disappears forever, dispatches this message: "If you drag things out too long here, you're sure to come to grief."

Derek Lundy elevates the story of one race into an appreciation of those thrill-seekers who embody the most heroic and eccentric aspects of the human condition.

Review: 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

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Godforsaken Sea: The True Story of a Race ...
Publisher: Anchor
Publication Date: 2000
Book Condition: Good

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