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on 15 April 2017
Brilliant read
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on 8 November 1999
This book recounts the story of the 1979 Fastnet race, a race noted for the destruction and deaths caused when a massive storm broke over the racing fleet as it was sailing exposed at sea. Insofar as the book is a non-fictional account of a fleet of boats and man dealing with treacherous elements, it bears comparison to Sebastian Junger's 'The Perfect Storm'. However, Rousmaniere never quite captures the sheer terror of being caught in a storm at sea, the awesome power of the weather and water and mans' relative helplessness in the face of such elements in the way that Junger does.
John Rousmaniere sailed aboard Toscana, one of the boats involved in the 1979 Fastnet race. This is both a benefit and a drawback; a benefit in that we get a first hand account of the race (Toscana completed the race relatively unscathed) and the author is clearly both knowledgeable and passionate about his sailing. The drawback of his involvement, however, is that we are also 'treated' to fairly insipid descriptions of life aboard Toscana, such as details about the cook on board forgetting the correct cream for a dessert, whereas real drama was unfolding on board other boats.
However, what Rousmaniere does manage well is the difficult act of balancing the need to explain meteorological and sailing terminology with the need to keep the narrative moving along. Each chapter of the book essentially deals with a different boat, its trials and tribulations, and technical details and terminology are injected into the narrative gradually.
Ultimately, however, it is in fact the photographs in the book of demasted and destroyed yachts, the wild seas around the Fastnet course, semi-conscious sailors and coffins being carried off rescue vessels which really drive home the sheer awfulness and magnitude of what happened. Fastnet Force 10 is a worthwhile, poignant and interesting book, but in terms of writing of the sense of awfulness and helplessness of being caught in a raging storm at sea, Junger achieves much, much more.
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on 19 August 2001
The writing style may not be to everybody's taste, but the content and sheer drama of the tragedy are very well documented and pictured.
Very much reporting the facts, details etc. there are many curious examples, such as the meticulous skipper who insisted that all crew had dental checkup prior to the race; the crew that left one member for dead and jumped into the raft, he came round to find an abandoned ship but was airlifted to safety whilst his crewmates all drowned.
There are a number of classic "storm" books which are essential reading for the sailing enthusiast, and this must surely be on the list. There is always much to be learned from understanding the mistakes made in these tragedies.
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on 11 May 2010
This book is unputdownable! It's exciting, exhilerating and frightening, especially if you're mere coastal sailors, as we are. I am in awe of the bravery of all concerned.
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on 20 November 2011
I first read this book many years ago at the time I first owned a boat and started sailing, wanting to understand heavy weather sailing for the greater safety of my family. I had read two other books about the 1979 Fastnet and neither of them explained what had really happened: for example, why did some boats like Rousmaniere's come through unscathed while others were badly damaged and lost crew members?

Rousmaniere gives his analysis, markedly improving my understanding of the sea - and not just in storm conditions.
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on 9 January 2016
Superbly written. An amazing account of the build up to the race, the extreme sea conditions, the difficulties encountered by the boats and crews, the bravery exhibited by rescuers and the aftermath. The best historical account of the race.
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on 2 May 2014
This book has to be one of the best of its type. Immaculately accurate it conveys in no small measure the absolutely horrifying conditions that the competitors in the Fastnet of that fateful year had to contend with. There can be no doubt that this author lived through a most traumatic event, and along with others in the race who lived to tell the tale he will never forget it. So sad that people died because of horrendous storm conditions in boats which would normally have kept them all safe.
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on 29 December 2015
I really enjoyed this - it's an detailed recounting of an horrific but fascinating event. If you like this, also read "Left for dead" by Nick Ward - the guy who got left behind in Grimalkin by his crew.
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on 2 April 2014
A fascinating look at every yachtsman's worst nightmare, in some ways reassurance is gained from knowledge of advancements since 1979, however the reader cannot avoid some doubt.
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on 11 March 2014
If you like sailing I suggest you read this book. It will make you consider when to use the life raft.
I found this an easy book to read and an unbiased account of the race
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