30 August 2013

4. A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols

It seems weird to me that I read PN's first book, Sea Change, seven years ago. Weird because I have very specific images and memories about the book still in my head, and other books I read at the same time, and recorded here in this blog, I have almost no recollection of. It's been on my shelf for a while, spared from donation, unread, through a few moves, and a few hurricanes. What finally pushed me to pick it up was this short essay by Maggie Shipstead.

This book is about the sailors who competed in the first non-stop, around-alone sailing race in 1968. I became so enthralled with the exploits of the four major competitors that I impulsively went to Amazon to buy a number of Bernard Moitessier's books, and Knox-Johnston's account of the voyage. The excerpted logs and diaries weren't enough, especially for what I have read as complementary material about BM, who seems to have the same religious view of the sea that I have.

At points I found myself looking for some kind of graphic organizer, so I could make sense of the dates and positions of each sailor in the race. And more pictures! But at the same time I thought the interweaving of journal and narrative was done very well. And PN is a master at the end of section foreshadowing that you find in a lot of these narratives of adventurous epics.

Since this 1968 race there have been more single-handed around-the-world races and more fully-crewed around-the-world races, so the idea caught on. I mean, people still want to explore the boundaries of what is capable, and this kind of racing certainly qualifies as a Test.