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The Proving Ground: The Inside Story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Boat Race [Paperback]

Bruce Knecht
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 July 2008
The story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart boat race - the most dramatic in yacht racing history The waters between Sydney and Hobart are famously treacherous. No one is fooled by the clear skies. In the hours before the 1998 Sydney to Hobart race, skippers gathered for a weather briefing. An intense low pressure was predicted, but three different forecasts disagreed about the exact course of the stormy weather. No one was unduly alarmed and all decided to sail. But within hours the yachts were confronted with hurricane-force winds and waves the height of a five-storey building. Six sailors died; fifty-five were pulled from the water. Of the 115 boats that started, just 43 would finish. In Hobart a memorial service replaced the legendary parties that normally follow the race. By focussing on a handful of yachts and those who crewed them, Bruce Knecht brilliantly recreates those dramatic hours and the stomach wrenching fear of those caught in the eye of the storm, battling, some forlornly, for their lives.

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The Proving Ground: The Inside Story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Boat Race + Fatal Storm: The Inside Story of the Tragic Sydney to Hobart Race + Deep Water [DVD] [2006]
Price For All Three: 22.87

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (1 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007292082
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007292080
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.2 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 866,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

In The Proving Ground, journalist and lifelong sailor Bruce Knecht tells the staggering story of the 54th Sydney to Hobart yacht race--an annual event that is always an extreme test of courage and skill in some of the world's most treacherous seas, but which in 1998 would become the most disastrous race in modern yachting history.

Although he was already fifty feet from the boat, Brownie didn't have any trouble spotting Glyn. He looked small, and utterly helpless ... Glyn was already having a hard time keeping his head out of the water, and everyone quickly reached the same unthinkable conclusion--Glyn was going to die and there was nothing to do but watch ... Steve Kulmar was more shaken than anyone. When he first came on deck, he believed Glyn was looking directly back at him.

Of the 115 boats that started under clear skies in Sydney, just 43 would finish. Six sailors lost their lives, and a further 55 were plucked from the storm after the fleet had been decimated by unforecast hurricane winds and 80ft high waves.

Knecht's style is novelistic, though measured, with a strong journalistic sensibility marshalling what must have been at times appallingly poignant eye-witness testimony into a coherent account of the disaster. His intended focus is beyond the headlines, and by concentrating on the experiences of a handful of individual crews, The Proving Ground succeeds in convincingly conveying the agonies of their desperate, sometimes futile struggles to survive. He offers some insight into what drew them to the sea in the first place, and why so many of the survivors have felt compelled to face it again. --Alex Hankin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘For those of us who confuse port and starboard, Knecht provides and excellent explanation of exactly what is going on, while maintaining the thrilling pace.’
Daily Telegraph

‘A sailing masterpiece. The book is in the ‘can’t put down’ category. It is The Perfect Storm of blue water sailboat racing.’
Walter Cronkite

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best on the subject 5 July 2001
By A Customer
If you have read other books on the 1998 Sydney-Hobart race, you will definitely like this one. Because it concentrates on only three yachts, you feel like you get to know the people sailing these boats. Unless you really were there in '98, I don't think you can know what it's like to sail in 70+ knot wind with monster waves, but Knecht sure comes close. Highly recommended for people who like good stories, and a must-read for yacht racers who want to learn from this tragic event.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A WOMAN'S OPINION 20 Jun 2012
By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I truly have mixed emotions about The Proving Ground, G. Bruce Knechts true life account of the disastrous 1998, 630 mile Sydney, Australia to Hobart yacht race. Some have compared this book to The Perfect Storm, but aside from the basic scenario of man versus the treacherous whims of Mother Nature there is really no comparison. While the men of Perfect Storm were driven to the sea in order to provide food and shelter for themselves and their families, Proving Ground takes a look at a group of men who are highly successful in their chosen professions (and in many cases filthy rich) as they lay it all on the line for what appears to be nothing more than an adrenaline rush, and in case of some participants, a severe case of galloping machismo.

This is not a criticism of Knecht's research, writing or his presentation of the facts. That the book was able to generate the emotions in me that it did is a tribute to the writer's ability to tell a story. Focusing primarily on 3 boats and their crews, he relates how both men and their vessels performed during a catastrophic storm and delves into the anxiety ridden, sometimes heroic, sometimes faulty judgment and character of the participants.

Perhaps this is a book that is more relatable to a male audience (particularly those who feel compelled to take to the seas). For a wife and mother, reading this account produced only feelings of anger. In my narrow view, this book appears to be a commentary on the arrogance and idiocy of certain race participants and their compelling need to prove to the world (and themselves) that they are "better than the average bear" and can succeed at anything they attempt no matter what the cost to themselves or others. I have never been able to understand what motivates the adrenaline junkies of the world nor can I wrap my head around the sort of egregious egotism and drives certain folks.
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