It’s hard not to love a sea story that seems too outrageous to be true, and such is the case with Gordon Bennett and the First Yacht Race Across the Atlantic, by Sam Jefferson.
Three millionaires launched their sailboats from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, in December 1866 amid high westerly winds. The race was the result of a $90,000 drunken bet wagered by Bennett, an heir to a publishing empire who was well known for outlandish acts. Six sailors died on the brutal 13-day sprint to England. The book drops the reader into yachting’s “gilded age” amid flamboyant tycoons who played hard with their toys. (Bloomsbury, $27)
British yachting journalist Tom Cunliffe, who has tens of thousands of bluewater miles under his keel, has penned The Complete Ocean Skipper: Deep-water Voyaging, Navigation and Yacht Management. He crafts a comprehensive but concise reference book on outfitting a boat, navigation, weather forecasting, deck routines, emergencies and heavy-weather tactics. With color photographs and diagrams throughout, this book, modeled after the Royal Yachting Association syllabus, is essential reading for anyone planning for or dreaming about sailing long distances. (Bloomsbury, $50)
America’s Cup Intrigue
Scandal and the America’s Cup are hardly strangers, but nearly three years after the biggest comeback in the history of sailing’s most prestigious prize, author G. Bruce Knecht has introduced the possibility of a new one. In The Comeback: How Larry Ellison’s Team Won the America’s Cup, Oracle Team USA’s eight straight wins to snatch victory away from Emirates Team New Zealand are detailed. Did the American syndicate’s stop-at-nothing tactics include using a prohibited sailing technique, known as “pumping,” to gain an unfair advantage? ($2.99 Kindle Single, $9.95 paperback)
This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue.