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

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9780007292080: The Proving Ground: The Inside Story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Boat Race

The story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart boat race - the most dramatic in yacht racing history The waters between Sydney and Hobart are famously treacherous. No one is fooled by the clear skies. In the hours before the 1998 Sydney to Hobart race, skippers gathered for a weather briefing. An intense low pressure was predicted, but three different forecasts disagreed about the exact course of the stormy weather. No one was unduly alarmed and all decided to sail. But within hours the yachts were confronted with hurricane-force winds and waves the height of a five-storey building. Six sailors died; fifty-five were pulled from the water. Of the 115 boats that started, just 43 would finish. In Hobart a memorial service replaced the legendary parties that normally follow the race. By focussing on a handful of yachts and those who crewed them, Bruce Knecht brilliantly recreates those dramatic hours and the stomach wrenching fear of those caught in the eye of the storm, battling, some forlornly, for their lives.

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Review:

In The Proving Ground, journalist and lifelong sailor 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--Glyn 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 80ft high waves.

Knecht's style is novelistic, though measured, with a strong journalistic sensibility marshalling what must have been at times appallingly poignant eye-witness 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 convincingly conveying the agonies of their desperate, sometimes futile struggles to survive. He 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

Review:

‘For those of us who confuse port and starboard, Knecht provides and excellent explanation of exactly what is going on, while maintaining the thrilling pace.’
Daily Telegraph

‘A sailing masterpiece. The book is in the ‘can’t put down’ category. It is The Perfect Storm of blue water sailboat racing.’
Walter Cronkite

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