Left for Dead: The Untold Story of the Greatest Disaster in Modern Sailing History

Overview

In August of 1979, Nick Ward began the 600-mile course of the UK's Fastnet Race with perfect weather. Within 48 hours, the deadliest storm in the history of modern sailing had blasted through the Irish Sea. By the time it had passed, it had thrown one of the world's most prestigious races into bedlam and taken the lives of fifteen sailors. Ward's boat, Grimalkin, was capsized again and again, and the skipper lost overboard; after hours of struggle, three of the crew fled the boat for the liferaft. Nick and his ...

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Left for Dead: Surviving the Deadliest Storm in Modern Sailing History

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Overview

In August of 1979, Nick Ward began the 600-mile course of the UK's Fastnet Race with perfect weather. Within 48 hours, the deadliest storm in the history of modern sailing had blasted through the Irish Sea. By the time it had passed, it had thrown one of the world's most prestigious races into bedlam and taken the lives of fifteen sailors. Ward's boat, Grimalkin, was capsized again and again, and the skipper lost overboard; after hours of struggle, three of the crew fled the boat for the liferaft. Nick and his crewmate Gerry, both injured, unconscious, and presumed dead, were abandoned on the beleaguered yacht. Gerry died a few hours later, and Nick was left alone to face down a storm that has become legendary among sailors and racing fans alike. "Left for Dead" is Nick Ward's harrowing and inspirational memoir of how he survived that dreadful night. After his dramatic rescue, Ward was overwhelmed by media and decided in 1980 not to speak of the incident again. It wasn't until this book's coauthor, Sinead O'Brien, approached him about the story that he began the personal writings that became this book. Here at last is the untold true story of an accident that has intrigued lovers of the sea for almost thirty years.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"His torrential narrative presents a remarkable seafaring saga that will have readers aching for the eventual rescue….A harrowing, thrilling, first-person tale of survival in the sea."—Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2007

"gripping story"—Seattle Times

Publishers Weekly

Raised in the 1960s in the village of Hamble on England's south coast, Ward was given sailing lessons by his father by the age of four and quickly grew to love the water. Given that Hamble was near the launching point for a 600-mile race called Fastnet, it's little surprise that come August of 1979 Ward leaped at the opportunity to take part. He describes the race, which killed 15 racers and sank five boats. He tells of what happened when his craft, the Grimalkin, got caught in a vicious storm that blew in across the Atlantic and caught the racing boats in the Irish Sea. The 50-foot waves and 80-knot winds capsized many boats, including his own, which was abandoned by most of its crew. Remaining on board was a dead shipmate and Ward, who tried to maintain his sanity as the storm raged on. That Ward, who had suffered a brain hemorrhage as a teenager and was taking antiseizure medication, survived such a devastating storm at all is something near miraculous. Unfortunately, with the exception of some exuberantly rhapsodic passages near the start on his love for the art of sailing, Ward's book (written with documentary filmmaker O'Brien) is a stiff affair. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In this gripping account, Ward finally breaks his multiyear silence and shares his story of what happened to him on his boat Grimalkinduring the storms that beset England's Fastnet sailing race in 1979. The race started off in near-perfect conditions on August 11 for the 303 yachts participating. The yachts left Cowes, England, to round Fastnet Rock off Ireland's southwest coast and sail back to Plymouth. Two days later, a storm of near-hurricane force left 15 dead, caused 24 crews to abandon ship, sank five yachts, and required the rescue of 136 sailors in the largest peacetime sea-and-air operation ever. Ward was on the 30-foot Grimalkinwith five other men. After being repeatedly battered by blow-downs (waves that knock over a boat 90 to 180 degrees), most of the crew decided to abandon ship-a controversial decision because Ward and another sailor, Gerry Winks, were left on the Grimalkin, presumed dead. Both, in fact, were alive. Ward survived another 14 hours, resuscitating Winks (who eventually died) before being rescued. Documentary filmmaker and author O'Brien persuaded Ward to work with her on this book. Recommended for all public libraries, especially those where Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm, Pete Goss's Close to the Wind, and John Rousmaniere's Fastnet, Force 10are popular. (16-page color insert/photos not seen.)
—Margaret Atwater-Singer

Kirkus Reviews
On August 14, 1979, 15 sailors died off the coast of England, the greatest loss of life in the history of yacht racing. Now one survivor tells his story. A fleet of 300 boats took part in the U.K.'s Fastnet Race. The plan was to navigate 608 miles to the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse on the Irish coast, then sail home again across the Irish Sea past the Isle of Wight and England. Ward, not quite 24, was aboard the 30-foot sloop Grimalkin with five shipmates. "The kicking strap, the vang, which held the main boom down, flattening the main sail, was winched, sweated in, tensioned as hard as we could get it," he writes, in full nautical parlance. "The spinnaker and jockey poles were checked, clipped and lashed." They ran into a spooky, foggy calm. The gulls were gone, and then the wind came up. In a night of fierce rain, spray and spume, a force 12 storm hit. Hope fell with the barometer. The injured skipper was lost in the sea. Secured to the vessel with a line, Ward, subject to epilepsy, lost consciousness. When he awoke, three crewmen and the life raft were gone. His remaining mate succumbed to hypothermia. Dehydrated and cold, Ward was stranded in a dismasted, foundering craft with a dead companion, whom he chatted up in his delirium. His survival depended largely on instinct. His torrential narrative presents a remarkable seafaring saga that will have readers aching for the eventual rescue. Grimalkin never went down, and Ward was saved by the Royal Navy. The mates who abandoned him never expressed remorse. A harrowing, thrilling, first-person tale of survival in the sea. Agent: Marianne Gunn O'Connor/Marianne Gunn O'Connor Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596914551
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 8/7/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Nick Ward is the survivor of one of the worst sailing accidents of modern history. He lives in Hamble, England, with his wife. They have one son. Sinead O'Brien is an author and documentary filmmaker living in Dublin.

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Table of Contents


Breaking the Silence     1
The Jewel in the Crown     4
Watches and Lighthouses     17
Still Waters     30
Ochre Sky     39
Off the Scale     52
Dark Alleys     60
Before Light, After Dawn     65
Muddled Mind     77
Footprints in the Sand     84
Blood-tinged Red Roses     89
Dead or Alive?     101
Softly, Softly, Catchee Monkey     106
Unmarked Time     114
Falling Forward     124
In My Mind's Eye     130
Horizon to Horizon     139
Aftermath     152
Revisiting Grimalkin - 26 years on     169
Grimalkin's Layout and Plans     174
Fastnet 1979 - Retirements and Finishers     176
Acknowledgements     185
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2008

    Gripping Story For Any Sailor

    This book may or may not interest non-sailors, but no one with offshore sailing experience will be able to put the book down until it's finished. Once the story reaches the beginning of the race, I visualized and vicariously felt every moment until the the rescue. (I'm not giving away anything here, because without the rescue there would be no one to tell the story.) No one would ever wish for the events of this story to happen to him- or herself, but reading and vicariously experiencing it was very entertaining and inspirational, as well as a whole host of other emotions. All sailors should be thankful that Nick Ward shared this story with us, even if it was cathartic for him.

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    Posted April 23, 2010

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