303 yachts left Cowes on 11th August 1979, at the start of the famous annual Fastnet Race.
Two days later the fleet was confronted by the deadliest storm in the history of modern sailing. By the time the race was over, 15 yachtsmen had perished, 24 crews had abandoned ship, 5 yachts had sunk, 136 sailors had been rescued and only 85 boats managed to finish the race.
Nick Ward was one of the crew on the Grimalkin, a 30-foot boat owned and skippered by David Sheahan. There were 4 other crew members, including Gerry Winks and Matthew Sheahan, the skipper’s 17 year-old son.
Written by Nick more than 20 years later and first published in 2007, Left for Dead is the absorbing account of what happened to the Grimaldi and its crew over that fateful 48 hours in 1979, after which David and Gerry were dead, and Nick was left wondering why the others had abandoned him and Gerry, both unconscious but alive on the storm-tossed boat, in favour of the life-raft.
Nick acknowledges his debt of gratitude to journalist and documentary film-maker Sinead O’Brien, without whom he says he would not have written the book, and certainly not so graphically. Indeed, it is a testament to their joint contributions that the reader is enthralled for over 200 pages in which Nick struggles to survive, badly injured and with only the stricken Gerry for company.
In the same genre as Touching The Void, Left for Dead is a gripping first-hand survival story, with a touch of moral jeopardy. I would love to hear the version of events from the other 3 crew members of Grimalkin in an effort to resolve that jeopardy, but I fear that won’t happen now.
Left for Dead as an intriguing account of a terrible few days at sea, with fatal consequences for some, but an astonishing story of survival for one man.