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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2006
This is the autobiographical account of James Cracknell and Ben Fogle's crossing in the Atlantic Rowing Race 2005/06 from the Canary Islands to Antigua. Both of them alternate in telling the story and sometimes recount the same incidents from their own very different perspectives. They seemed to enter the race in a fit of absent mindedness and their preparations were truly shambolic to the extent that the organisers came within a hair's breadth of refusing them permission to participate. Ben Fogle hadn't even properly learnt to row beforehand! Oh yes, and in addition to rowing 3,000 miles they also had to endure the worst weather that the bi-annual race had ever experienced. However, this amateurishness greatly improves the story. What prevents it falling into a story of public school derring do is that gradually you see the strengths and transferable skills that both characters have developed in other spheres coming very much to the fore and pulling them through to become the first pair to cross the finishing line. So James Cracknell's intense competitiveness provides immense drive and motivation whilst Ben Fogle's good natured doggedness offers a striking contract to Cracknell. Despite great stretches when not a lot happens other than lots and lots of rowing (interspersed with a few brief moments of dangerous high drama) the book never fails to engage. There was a surprising twist before the end when the motivation of both characters changed. Both frankly, but kindly, relate the tensions that invariably arose on board. I think this is one of the book's strengths - the way they honestly project both their personalities, warts and all, to the extent that you feel you know and like them both by the time they reach Antigua. The ending is affecting as they bring out how the race helped clarified life changing decisions for them both and revealed their personalities to themselves. This book will appeal to rowing enthusiasts, fans of either author and anyone interested in endurance events, motivational stories or team work under pressure.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2007
This is the first book for a while that's kept me completely gripped..finished it in a couple of evenings and was kind of disappointed when it was over! A must read for anyone with a curiosity of the human nature under extreme pressure (in some very adverse circumstances)

It is written honestly and candidly by both men and makes you feel like you are living the ups and downs with them!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 1 July 2007
If you missed this when it was shown on tv (briefly in a one off show) then this is the story of Ben (TV host, bit posh) and James (Olympic rower, v competitive) and their race to row across the Atlantic. Its all fairly self explanatory - find a rowing partner, buy a boat, row in straight line, meet friends and family on other side of ocean. But things are never that easy.

This book gives you both sides of the story, and makes it very clear that Ben and James didn't always get on. The arguments, tantrums, bickering and resentments all make this a more honest account of their journey. I like the format of this book, in the sense that you get one account first, then followed on by the others, leading you to draw your own conclusions when sometimes they don't add up.

The actual race itself sounds amazing. The team were very underprepared and no-one thought they stood a chance of even starting, but somehow they made it. Then its all about the hard slog across the Atlantic including highlights of rowing with dolphins and the low points of capsizing in the night.

This is a great book, thoroughly recommended for anyone who is an armchair adventurer.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2006
I started reading this book not really knowing how good it would be and ended up finishing it in 6 hours - I just couldn't put it down. The book is so well written, it's hilarious to see the differences in mentality between James and Ben and because it's written by both of them, you get both perspectives. But it's also an incredible account of perseverence and bravery coping with terrible loneliness, hunger, thirst and sheer terror. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I finished the book. Amazing...
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 20 March 2007
Gripping, terrifying, heartbreaking, amazing, emotional, courageous. Just a few of the words describing the race whilst reading this book. They start as ill-equipped outsiders and finish as the first pair to cross the Atlantic in one of the greatest races since records began.

I was never popular of Ben Fogle from Castaway 2000, however since reading this book in just a few days my assumptions of him were changed dramatically. A must read for anyone who doubts the book will not be as good as this review makes out!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 10 October 2006
Having seen the BBC documentary, I kinda knew that what James Cracknell and Ben Fogle had done was tough; but what comes through brilliantly in the book is the real sense of a race (they were up against lots of other similar rowing boats) and the crackling,tetchy tension between the two of them - it's clear that Fogle was initially just along for the fun of the experience, while Cracknell wanted to win at all costs. There's a brilliant bit where Cracknell powers them away at the start for an hour, and they're clearly buzzing at beating everyone else... only for a vital bit of equipment to break. All the other boats bob merrily past them, and the realization sets in that this isn't a 2,000m Olympic race; it's 3,000 miles, rowing 12 hours a day for fifty days. Great stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 2014
Rowing across the Atlantic is an amazing thing to do and I am sure that there are other exciting tales of rowers' experiences on the journey but it would be hard to beat this account.

When they met at a function Ben bumbled out an invite to James to join him to row the Atlantic. Brusque rejection and Ben departs tail between his legs. A while later James changes his mind and contacts Ben and so the preparations begin. Nevertheless they arrive at the starting point in LaGomera in the Canaries late and totally unprepared. Only a tropical storm saves them from disqualification before they start.

Such an unlikely pair to row the Atlantic together confined to a small boat for weeks. James Cracknell the Olympic gold medal rower is the macho man, ultra competitive, insensitive towards everyone and knows it and says it. He calls it frankness. Ben calls it bullying. Ben Fogle is a total contrast, posh speaking, refined, sensitive, well-mannered, self-effacing. Ben is like the chicken crossing the road, he is rowing the Atlantic to get to the other side. For James however the only thing that matters is winning, getting there first.

You read James's acidic account of a day and then Ben's wholly different perspective on the same events. Both hit the targets they are aiming for - their rowing partner. It seems like a very honest account from both of them. So honest in fact that I wondered were they exaggerating for dramatic effect but maybe not. They come across just like their public images but even more so. That's what makes it so entertaining. It is a miracle they have been able to remain together in this tiny boat without murder or suicide or both. They both came close to physical and mental breakdown probably at its worst over Christmas when their desalination machine broke down and they got seriously dehydrated by abstaining from the emergency ballast water.

One thing they seem to agree about however is how they feel about the organisers of the race and in particular that dragon Lin who never has a kind thing to say and seems to have not a human bone in her body.

Read it and see for yourself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2014
Wasn't sure what to expect from this but the reviews were so good I had to give it a go - & I am so glad I did! I had seen the documentary so knew the result but that didn't spoil anything at all for me. Best 99p I have spent in a long time and I am now going to download their other book as it is sure to be every bit as good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2009
I had doubts about this book as, admittedley not knowing much about him, I didn't think Ben Fogle was the type of person I wanted to read about. However, the book was recommended so I gave it a go.

And I'm glad I did. A really excellent, gripping book. It's very honest about what the guys went through, their relationship with each other and life on board. The story of the crossing is gripping and I couldn't put it down.

The early part of the book did pose a few questions, such as why they were so under prepared when taking on such a mammoth task but otherwise I was gripped. One of the best books I've read in a long time.
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on 3 February 2013
A gripping account of two men rowing the Atlantic in what begins as a race but ends as an ordeal of self-inflicted suffering that grinds towards the finishing line. The story is told alternately by each participant in an almost day to day diarised series of entries, with both men being stripped down to their core beings as the effort to keep going to the end drives them on. You are given a glimpse into what it takes to be competitive enough to be an Olympic gold medalist, as Cracknell's maddening need to finish first almost takes everything over the edge - his first response to capsizing and seeing fairly essential gear float away on the tide is that it is a good thing because it will make the boat lighter and faster. Ben Fogle is a more human character for whom taking part in the event and testing himself is the worthier goal.
This is a really well written account that I read over a weekend. It's up there with a lot of other well-known adventure stories I've read, from Touching the Void to Into Thin Air. While I can't say that you get to know the two men well as the book progresses, you are given an insight to the kind of mentality you'd need to get through something like this and it's not too pretty. I got the impression that they were both shielding the worst pits of depression they'd mined on this voyage from both their readers and themselves. Perhaps they didn't want to revisit those dark places too closely.
Definitely worth reading whether you're into sailing or not, this is a cracking adventure story that leaves you thinking rather them than you!
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