By John Kretschmer
Published by Burford Books 2012 (originally published 1986)
American sailing legend, John Kretschmer, made his name in 1986 with the daring voyage from New York to San Francisco in Gigi, a Contessa 32. He was retracing the route of the great clipper ships by rounding Cape Stiff, as it was dubbed by ancient shellbacks, to windward. In yachting terms this was the ‘wrong way’, but in commercial sailing terms, it was the most economic way to get at the guano deposits of Chile used as fertiliser on the fields of Europe. Kretschmer, with a rotating crew, reveals the reprimand he received from the understandably anxious father of his girlfriend who did not believe an ocean passage on a small boat, against the wind, doubling the world’s most fearsome corner could be described as courting!
When I first read this book I was with Kretschmer on every wave following in the wake of my own grandfather, Captain Richard Stephens Durham, OBE, who served his apprenticeship in two square riggers, Pass of Killiecrankie and Pass of Brander, which both went after the birdlime of Valparaiso.