Rich with excitement, accomplished, gripping and authoritative, A Voyage for Madmen is the story of the yachting tournament from hell written by a man who is himself a gifted sailor as well as writer.
Peter Nichols' previous book, Sea Change, was the telling account of his own crossing of the Atlantic in a ridiculously small wooden boat. Now he's taken the skills he employed in that much-praised slice of autobiography to relay another quixotic tale. The subject this time is the infamous Golden Globe yacht race of 1968, when nine men, some French, some English, all bonkers (hence the title), undertook the most challenging adventure of their lives. The goal was to sail around the world solo, a feat no one had yet achieved; to make matters just that extra bit tricky some of the sailors were total novices.
The book analyses the fate of each sailor in turn. Using polished, craftsman-like, clear and sometimes moving prose, Nichols describes how the nine fought through storms and collisions, through the roaring 40s and the furious 50s, and how each man experienced those moments of solitary despair, lonely disappointment and occasional mystical elation that are unique to long-haul solo sailing. One of the most commendable features of the book is the way Nichols discusses the technical side of yachtsmanship with verve and passion without ever turning into an anorak. This is a fine and absorbing true-life tragicomedy, suitable for landlubbers and sea dogs alike. --Sean Thomas [via]