A Race Too Far

On the same subject, see my review of The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst

On the same subject, see my review of The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst

The Golden Globe sailing race of 1968-69 is a fascinating event full of interesting characters and human drama, both on shore and at sea. If this is your first book about the subject, you are bound to love it: pacy, informative about the sea and sailing without assuming knowledge or going too much into detail, and with a real human sympathy for the people involved.

If you know about the race and have read A Voyage For Madmen by Peter Nichols or The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst (by Tomalin and Hall), you may wonder what more this book can offer. Well, it's this:

1. Eakin interviews all those that are still alive and willing to talk, about their involvement in the race and its various catastrophes. We hear, for example, from Captain Craig Rich, who investigated Crowhurst's sailing positions during and after the race. People that were just names before now come forward as interesting people in their own right. Eakin has rightly judged, I think, that those already acquainted with the race story, from the Crowhurst angle or from the nine sailors angle, find their interest rippling out to the non-sailors, publicists, journalists, investors, wives and family that all played their own parts in the saga. He indulges that interest by widening the cast of 'speaking' characters in this account.

2. Eakin brings the story up to date, by sharing the thoughts and attitudes of the surviving key players, forty years on. Some have already died (e.g. Crowhurst's publicist, Rodney Hallworth), but others are old men and women whose stories and final thoughts on the drama were captured by Eakin before it was too late. In a way, the Globe race was too large an event in the lives of the competitors -- and for onlookers -- to be just about 'then'. It's a story that people have reflected on, argued about, and researched ever since. It's a story of 1968 that has a 'now', too.

3. Because there is original research, and a big-picture approach to the whole event -- people-wise, technology-wise, time-wise, and significance-wise -- one learns facts that are not presented in other accounts, and one gains a more rounded view.

The writing is very good: clear, direct, conversational, uncluttered and unpadded. Eakin effortlessly weaves the chronologies of nine different sailors: the book is tautly structured and you never wonder why he is talking about this or that now, instead of something else.

Whether you're new to the Golden Globe story or you're a completist that can't get enough, you'll find this book well worth your time.