Picks and Pans Review: The Proving Ground
by G. Bruce Knecht
Anyone searching for bad omens at the start of the famous annual day-after-Christmas yacht race between Sydney and Hobart, Australia, in 1998 didn't have far to look. As a flotilla of gleaming white sloops gathered under radiant skies in Sydney's harbor, snow was falling elsewhere in southern Australia. Snow? Australia is in the southern hemisphere, where Dec. 26 falls at the beginning of summer.
But nobody seemed to be heeding warning signs that day. Despite official forecasts that the race's course was in the path of a ferocious storm—a hurricane-force blow that would eventually kick up waves as tall as eight-story buildings and crush million-dollar yachts like origami rowboats—yachting's fiercest competitors, among them software mogul Larry Ellison, then the world's second richest man, either ignored or simply underestimated the danger. Knecht navigates tricky waters here by sticking to pulse-pounding drama—six people drowned and 55 others plucked from the sea by rescue ships and helicopters—leaving readers to mull the tale's moral query: At what point does blue-water trophy-chasing lapse from sport into unthinking folly? (Little, Brown, $24.95)
Bottom Line: Satisfying sea fare
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