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The proving ground

Tragedy in the Bass Strait

On Dec. 26, 1998, 115 sailboats set out on the annual race from Sydney to Hobart. It’s Australia’s most popular yacht race and a difficult 630 miles in good conditions.

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During this 54th running, a powerful storm tore through the fleet. Only 44 boats would make it to Hobart. Six sailors died, 56 were rescued and five yachts sank, making it the worst modern sail-racing disaster since the 1979 Fastnet Race.

Ten years after G. Bruce Knecht’s account was published, AmazonEncore has rereleased “The Proving Ground” ($14.95, 320 pages, paperback) with a new afterword by Knecht. The narrative follows the fates of three yachts, including Sayonara, which Oracle software billionaire Larry Ellison owned. From an Olympic sailor whose fate was sealed when he was catapulted from a yacht to survival on two life rafts, “The Proving Ground” remains a gripping read.

This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue.