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Eric Tabarly was one of yachting’s iconic figures who became a legend in French sailing from the moment he beat the British to win the second edition of the single-handed transatlantic in 1964. It was not so much that he won but the way in which he did it that raised his profile in his native country. Purpose-built for the race, his 44-foot Pen Duick II took yacht development forward in seven league boots, at a time when his more corinthian competitors' advances were only incremental. He beat Sir Francis Chichester, the winner of the first edition of the race, by nearly three days. Tabarly, a French Naval officer, was tough and fearless as well as an innovator ; although it was single-handed sailing that elevated him to legendary status (he was awarded France’s Legion D’Honneur for his triumph) he was soon taking part in races like the Sydney Hobart, the Fastnet Race and the Transpac, winning line honours in all three and setting a new course record in the Transpac. Before long he had begun to make plans to compete in a new round the world race – the Whitbread. Two dismastings prevented him (the fastest entrant on all points of sail) from winning the 1973 race. By now Tabarly had reached celebrity status in France but despite his appearances in the media it was always his exploits on the open ocean that commanded the most attention… such as winning the 1976 single-handed transatlantic race where he overcame the massive 236-foot schooner Club Mediterranée in his 73-foot Pen Duick VI.In 1984 Eric Tabarly was voted the most popular sports figure in France and ten years later, then 63, he was drafted into the Whitbread again to take over command of the French maxi La Poste where his legendary leadership skills were called upon to pull together a disparate team.Tabarly loved sailing to the very end and it was during a voyage to Ireland in 1998 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Pen Duick that he was struck by the boom just off the Welsh coast and swept overboard to his death. France and the international sailing community mourned his passing.
Looking back at the lives and sailing careers of some of our lifetime’s finest yachtsmen, this collection of eleven original, moving accounts is just as much a celebration of the good – tales of hope, achievement and courageous spirit – as it is an account of their tragic final voyages. Included are world-renowned racers, like Eric Tabarly and Rob James, highly experienced cruisers and adventurers, like Peter Tangvald and Bill Tilman, and the notoriously ill-prepared Donald Crowhurst, as well as other famous and some less well-known sailors. Starting with the sad loss of Frank Davison and Reliance in 1949, the book concludes with the amazing last voyage of Philip Walwyn in 2015 – crossing the Atlantic single-handed in his 12 Metre yacht Kate. All of the men and women described were friends with or known to the author, Nicholas Gray, who himself competed in several short-handed long distance races, where he met and raced against many of these fascinating characters. Peppered with photographs showcasing the sailors and their yachts, this is a refreshing look at those who have helped to shape this sport’s history, honouring their lives and accomplishments before detailing their tragic last voyages.
Which woman made the first solo transatlantic crossing? Who saved thousands of lives with the invention of navigation lights? What is the story behind the invention of the compass? Who was Francis Beaufort and how did he come to devise the Beaufort wind scale, still used to this day? Why did William Petty invent the catamaran (in 1662)? Many of us know the story of modern sailing pioneers - Dame Ellen MacArthur and Francis Chichester, Claire Francis and the challengers of the Americas Cup - but what about those unsung heroes who invented the mechanisms and technology which enabled sailors to speed across the oceans and navigate more safely? This fascinating book reveals the extraordinary stories behind the apparatus which many take for granted. Learn how the Frenchman Boulanger produced the first binoculars in 1859, enabling sailors to spy landmarks more effectively; or how William Armstrong earned sailors' gratitude by devising the yacht winch. From cloud classification and screw propellers to radio telephones and the measurement of tides, from the sextant to the first fibreglass boat, this collection of stories, with a foreword by Ben Ainslie, Olympic gold medal winner, will inspire and intrigue sailors everywhere.

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