- by Carol Standish
Of the many lavish coffee table books on the market, two recently published could solve the gift problem for the salts on your list. For the ferocious and obsessed sailboat racer there is Sailing Solo (International Marine, $49.95, 192pp), in which British sailor and freelance journalist, Nic Compton presents the extreme sport in its entirety. Literally stuffed with dramatic action color photographs, race histories, sailor’s profiles, maps of routes, highlights, records, daring rescues, it’s all here in this handsome volume.
One race is more fantastic than the next. If there’s a single phrase that captures this sport, it is “push everything to the limit”—both man (or woman) and machine. A chapter is dedicated to each of the six most famous solo racing events, the Europe 1 New Man Star (previously the Ostar), the Figaro Solitaire, the Mini-Transat, Route du Rhum, Around Alone and the Vendée Globe.
It’s hard to decide which of these grueling contests is the most extreme, but I’d probably vote for the Mini-Transat. The challenge is to race single-handed across the Atlantic in a 21-foot boat. Granted, today the boat is state of the art but it’s still only 21-feet. The race was started in 1977 in the spirit of egalitarianism—a rare word in this hugely expensive sport. While covering another solo race, British photo-journalist, Bob Salmon got hooked on the sport that he tried to enter the Ostar (Plymouth, England to Newport, Rhode Island). He couldn’t raise the funds required to compete with other entries such as the 128-foot Vendredi Treize so he organized the “mini” trans Atlantic race for boats no larger than 21-feet. “The danger of taking on the Atlantic Ocean in such a small craft was forcefully brought home in that very first race with the death of two skippers,” says Compton whose brother, to whom the book is dedicated, was lost at sea in 1980.
Sailing Solo enthusiastically acknowledges the pioneer solo sailors who were the eventual inspiration for the sport. The great solo voyages of Joshua Slocum, Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnson, Chay Blyth (who was the first to sail the “wrong way” around the world) and Bernard Moitessier are given due credit in words and pictures. The book also includes a run down of less famous solo racing events, a glossary, an index, and a winner’s list by race and year. It’s a spectacularly beautiful, thoughtfully designed book about an amazing sport but I am happy to report that it didn’t persuade me to immediately go out and do it—so I think it’s safe to recommend.
On the other hand, the laid-back, contemplative sailor who appreciates the aesthetics of the sailing more than the challenge will be delighted to receive Safe Harbor (Down East Books, $30, 96pp). Professional photographer, William Hubbell has already published one luscious book of coastal scenes, Seasons of Maine and Safe Harbor is a worthy sequel.
An enviable assignment Hubbell gave himself, visiting Maine harbors and hurricane holes from Kittery to Lubec, taking pictures and engaging the natives. More than 60 harbors are featured from the well-known (Northeast and Boothbay) to the obscure (Perry’s Creek and Cozy) and they are universally gorgeous. Hubbell divides the coast in a conventional way, (except for the southwest coast which he inexplicably calls “southeast”), Casco Bay, Midcoast, Penobscot Bay, Mount Desert, and Down East. Each regional section of photographs is introduced with an interview of a salty denizen of the area. This little textual fillip adds flavor of the actual scenes and helps individualize each area of our incredibly convoluted coast.
This handsome book did make me want to “go out and do it” but it will have to tide me over ‘til next summer. Warm holidays and a short winter to all.