|Godforsaken Sea by Derek Lundy
Review Copyright 2005 Noel Davis.
The Vendee Globe could be described as a single handed around the world sailboat race. But this would not do it justice. The skippers sail from Les Sables-d'Olonne, France and circle the earth without any stops or outside assistance. During the circumvention they traverse the southern ocean: well known for its bad weather, dangerous waves, ice bergs, and the incredible distance their vessel will be from rescue. The skippers not only have to sail and repair a large sailboat without assistance but they are required to do so with amazingly little sleep.
In the 1996 Vendee Globe four sailboats were lost at sea in the southern ocean. Three of the skippers where rescued, the fourth was lost at sea.
In Godforsaken Sea Derek Lundy follows the race from beginning to end. But he does much more than that. When I finished the book I felt like I knew the skippers personally. The amount of research and interviews conducted to produce this book produced a depth and breadth that few non-fiction books achieve. The background material and quoted statements from the skippers allow the reader to gain a basic understanding of the courage and effort that the Vendee Globe requires of its participants.
At the same time the book was the right length. At no point did I feel that something unnecessary had been added. The author does branch from the race into other related topics such as a voyage he had made in his own sailboat in the Atlantic. These side trips add to the understanding of the story and never detract from it.
My favorite part of the story was the rescue of Raphael Dinelli by Pete Goss. The skill and courage it took for Goss to beat upwind through hurricane force conditions to reach Dinelli was inspiring. The following quote talks about the conditions in which Goss sailed:
"Luckily the next day, the worst of the low had passed over. It had been a shorter that usual shellacking because, for once, the boat was heading against the storm's track rather than running with it, and the system passed over quickly in the opposite direction. The wind dropped to forty-five knots. It seemed like a calm day to Goss; it was amazing what you could get used to, he thought. He began to repair damage to his mainsail and other gear. His aft watertight compartment was full of water, and he bailed it out."
With great understatement Goss describes this in his book Close to the Wind, as "Phase one was a simple yacht race to Raphael's general location".
Lundy not only reports the events of the race but also conveys the emotions of the events. For example when Goss is heading to rescue Dinelli, Lundy tells us about the apprehension of the designer of Goss's boat and his concern that it would not be up to a task that it had not been designed to do.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes books about adventure, extreme sports, or sailing. I could not put it down. It is the best book available for anyone who wants to understand one of the greatest tests of courage available, the Vendee Globe.