If you can't go sailing because of the winter weather, the next best option is to curl up in a comfortable chair with a good book. Here are four that the editor recommends.
Three times around the world single-handed
By Les Powles
When I first started reading this book, which opens with Les Powles attempting an Atlantic crossing in a woefully under-equipped, home-made boat and with less than eight hours sailing experience, I thought it was the work of a madman. By the end I still questioned Les’s sanity, but had developed an enormous respect for the man’s courage, ingenuity and seamanship. And I had thoroughly enjoyed the story.
Les’s story was part told in a previous book, Hands Open, and he is well-known among cruising sailors. The Yachting Journalists Association awarded him the 1981 Yachtsman of the Year title and the Ocean Cruising Club presented him with its prestigious Award of Merit for his second and third circumnavigations, both under-funded and under-provisioned and both of which nearly cost him his life.
In many ways, this is a handbook for those dreamers who want to set out and live the cruising lifestyle on a shoe-string, showing them the pitfalls, the ways to make ends meet and the ways to be accepted and helped along the way. If so, I hope they will also take onboard Les’s strong message, and the cause of a bitterly-fought battle with New Zealand bureaucracy, that if you go out there alone you do so at your own risk, and shouldn’t expect others to risk their lives to rescue you from your folly.
The descriptions of knock-downs in hurricane-force winds, of near starvation when provisions ran out, of navigation gone awry and of the delights of human company when a single-hander finally makes it home will excite and enthrall you. This should be in every cruiser’s bookshelf.
How to Design a Boat
By John Teale
The fact that this is the fourth edition of John Teale’s simple”how to” manual indicates that the topic is of interest to a wide audience. Having recently enjoyed a 50nm open water sail on a home-designed 54 footer (see page 60), and having built my own 37ft sloop from an aluminium kit some years ago, I have confidence that the process of designing and building your own boat is not beyond most people.
Teale claims that “anyone having a reasonable eye for a fair curve and the merest smattering of mathematics can design a boat”. He then goes on to show how it is done, using a 20ft traditional day-sailer as an example. Chapters include preliminary sketches and calculations, making working drawings, resistance, sail plans and hull balance, constructional considerations including materials, and stability.
The text is well-written, with simple explanations of even the most complex subjects. Being British, Teale uses imperial measurements which may become a little tedious, but he does pay lip-service to the metric system as well, so mathematically the book should not prove too much of a challenge.
If you have ever fancied yourself as the next Bruce Farr, if you simply want to check the design parameters of your own boat and understand her design in more detail, or if you genuinely want to try your hand at designing a yacht, this book is a great place to start.
Australasian 18-footers 1890-1965
By Robin Elliott
This painstakingly researched history of 18 footer racing from 1890 to 1965 is far from a dour regurgitation of old newspaper reports and sailing club minutes. Instead it is a fascinating chronicling of battles between individuals and groups, both on and off the water. Written by a Kiwi, the story ranges from Sydney to as far afield as New Zealand, Perth and Brisbane, all centres who engaged in the extreme politics of the 18 footer movement, arguing over beam measurements primarily, but also over who had the right to stage what international and interstate trophy races. Anyone who serves, or who intends to serve, on a yacht club committee should read it, just to find out how not to behave!
Bob Cranse has related one of the many anecdotes from this book in his By the Way column on the back page of this issue, where he relates an incident of deliberate damage to an opponent. What any readers born after about 1970 might not realise is that sailing in Australia was once a working man’s sport and the 18 footer clubs in Sydney, in particular, had close ties with rugby league. The story of how the New South Wales 18-footers Sailing League broke away from the Sydney Flying Squadron and managed to get Sunday racing, along with extensive bookmaking complete with published form guides, is compelling reading.
The recent revival of the historical 18-footers, with beautifully hand-built replicas of the old champions, has seen a renewed interest in the days of massively over-canvassed open boats crewed by teams of up to 15 strong men. This book is their story, and it is well worth the purchase price.
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