As we sit and watch the Sydney to Hobart fleet battle another difficult journey of over 600 nautical miles, I’ve been reading about another yacht race – the first Golden Globe. A non-stop, single-handed race around the world. A VOYAGE FOR MADMEN, by Peter Nichols.

I picked up this book as a freebie from the local street library and as soon as I started reading it, I haven’t been able to put it down.

It’s the incredible true story of nine, strong-willed, but mostly inexperienced, sailors, who pit their wits and judgement against mother nature, in an attempt to be the first person to sail solo, non-stop, around the world.

This journey started in 1968, long before the advent of GPS, satellite tracking, mobile phones and AIS, but what I found most incredible was the fact that there was no entry criteria, or application. One could simply join in and set off! Several of the men were not only inexperienced sailors (one couldn’t sail at all), their boats were unsuitable for the task, and the men were completely unprepared for the conditions that they would have to face and endure.

This book is also very well-written. Nichols has an eye for detail, with his expert knowledge of maritime matters. Yet, at no time is the reader bogged down in the detail. Nichols’ style is fluid and compelling, keeping the reader fully engaged.

And it’s not just for sailors or armchair sailors. It’s a very human story of courage and commitment. The story of lone men, pitting their wits and energies against impossible odds. Men driven to achieve something that had never been accomplished before, and to be the first to do it.

Both exciting and terribly sad, this book is a must read!