One of my favorite cautionary sea stories comes from Marlin Bree’s Wake of the Green Storm. Author of five nonfiction books about sailing, Dead on the Wind is his first novel, a thriller set in the world of high-tech yacht racing.
The Race Alone Around the World (RAAW), based on the Vendee Globe race, involves boats using the most cutting edge designs, piloted by skilled sailors determined to circumnavigate singlehanded on boats so big that one person can just barely handle them. The boats are made of the most advanced materials, primarily carbon fiber reinforced epoxy plastic.
But things begin to go mysteriously wrong. The Australian entry, Marci Whitman, sails her sled out of Sydney Harbour on a shakedown cruise — and does not return. Kevlin Star, her former lover and writer for Megasailmagazine, dashes Down Under ostensibly to get the story but actually to assist in the search. There he meets Tremain Whitman, Marci’s grandfather and the designer of her boat, and Trudance, Whitman’s granddaughter and Marci’s sister.
Despite the mysterious tragedy, the race preparations continue, and soon the race starts from New York Harbor. This section of the story, describing the racers from different countries and their plans to make the most of the advantages of their disparate boats, is the most interesting part of the book. There is lots of heeled over, lee rail under, wave-smashing sailing here, which does not last nearly long enough. More boats suffer mysterious casualties, other sailors are lost, and Kevlin is kept running from one side of the planet to the other covering the race and uncovering how the boats are being sabotaged and who is behind the plot.
Marlin’s clipped writing style keeps the story moving right along. Kevlin spends a lot of time waist deep (and more) in the icy cold waters of various oceans as the nicely plotted story keeps him in the middle of the action, until he singlehandedly saves a major harbor and identifies the bad guys.
If you enjoy sailing and techno-thrillers, Dead on the Wind will keep you glued to your reading chair.