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The Proving Ground

by G. Bruce Knecht

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2253119,669 (3.98)9
Chronicles the harrowing experiences of several men who took part in the ill-fated 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race, a 630-mile race that began with one hundred and fifteen boats in the running, was turned upside down by a cyclone, and ended with the return of only forty-three vessels and the deaths of six men.… (more)
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This was a fascinating story about a subject with which I was completely unfamiliar. I had never heard of the Hobart and knew nothing whatsoever about sailing or yacht racing. I found that this book was an excellent introduction. The story of the disaster itself is a gripping tale - the author focuses on a few specific boats and specific crewmen, alternating between different boats and rescue professionals. I found it relatively easy to recall most of the backgrounds for each of the crewmen that were featured prominently, though some of the crewmen who were mentioned less frequently became jumbled to me.

Although this is a disaster story, and many of the men found themselves in terrible predicaments, I did find that several of the sailors were unlikeable due to their arrogance and unchecked ambition. Larry Ellison - the founder of Oracle - has always had a reputation for his aggressively arrogant nature, and this book didn't do a whole lot to cast him in a different light. Several other sailors had opportunities for growth and change during their harrowing experience and instead went on to be as self-aggrandizing as they were prior to the start of the race. It was hard to drum up sympathy for some of those individuals. However, there were several sailors who showed great strength of character before, during, and after the storm. Although he is not central to the story, Rupert Murdoch's son, Lachlan Murdoch, was aboard Larry Ellison's boat and came across as extremely hard-working and self-reflective.

If you are unfamiliar with yachts, some of the technical details (such as how boats broke apart during the storm) will be lost on you. Since my understanding of yachts is virtually non-existent and comes largely from seeing pictures of recreational yachts, I found it a little difficult to envision the bunks, life rafts, and the decks on a racing yacht, and I wish the book had more pictures. I used Google Images to supplement where the book fell short. ( )
  slug9000 | Jul 16, 2014 |
Knecht asks why successful businessman place themselves in such dangerous, challenging environments and whether ultimately it is worthwhile. The way the story unfolds as does the true character of each of the crews' members is gripping. Proving Ground reads like a thriller. Don't be surprised to read it in one sitting. ( )
  kenno82 | Jul 22, 2011 |
Awesome story of the 1998 Sydney-Hobart yacht race, when the racers were caught in a storm. Riveting, good explanations, plenty of detail. Page turner. ( )
  breic2 | Oct 28, 2006 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
G. Bruce Knechtprimary authorall editionscalculated
Van der Mijn, AadTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Chronicles the harrowing experiences of several men who took part in the ill-fated 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race, a 630-mile race that began with one hundred and fifteen boats in the running, was turned upside down by a cyclone, and ended with the return of only forty-three vessels and the deaths of six men.

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