Books by Michael Levitt

Released: July 1, 1998

America's Cup winner Conner (The Art of Winning, 1988) and sailing writer Levitt's history of the most visible race in sailing blends politics, rarified technology, personalities, and a healthy dose of the sport's runic patois in thorough, if prolix, fashion. Even though the competition remains "as fitting a measure of a nation's place in the world as any sport is," as Conner would have it—the book is written in his voice—the nature of the America's Cup has changed drastically over the last 150 years. Once a clubby venue for the rich, it now allows ordinary Joes and Janes to get a shot (Connor makes much of his middle-class status) if they can wheedle the corporate bucks; whereas before, courage, execution, and nautical savvy made up the winning formula, today must be added scientists, technicians, meteorologists, organizers, and lawyers. But one element has remained steady as the western wind: controversy. With such personalities involved as the dastardly Lord Dunraven, brash Ted Turner, and the backdoor-maneuvering Sir Michael Fay; with the baroque rules of the governing Deed of Gift, and the skulduggery involved in sail-making and keel design; and considering the willingness of the contestants to hurl numerous protests at one another, how could it have been otherwise? Conner does a good job explaining the above, as well as the complexity of the event, from the radical boat designs to behind-the-scene dealings to tactical decisions made when under sail. But best of all is the simple fact that Conner is an insider unafraid to criticize or compliment both his rivals and himself (such as his less-than-savory use of a loophole in the Deed to sail a catamaran in the 1988 defense) and to back up his remarks with intelligent opinions. While the amount of detailing makes the book a sailor's dream and a lubber's chore, anyone even remotely interested in the America's Cup will find plenty of nuggets here to keep their curiosity perking. (b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1996

A rip-roaring, two-fisted account of Lewis's bid to best the 80 days it took Phileas Fogg to circle the globe. Whereas Verne's character took all modes of transportation available, Lewis—a trophy-laden, world-class sailor, as he often reminds readers—confined himself to a sleek, monstrous (though fragile), wind-driven catamaran: cold and leaky, perhaps, but fast. (In typical hairy-chested fashion, Lewis notes that these multihulls are often referred to as ``biker boats for speed freaks.'') A good amount of text is given to the parallels in the journeys of Fogg and Lewis, to Lewis's life history, and to the seemingly endless number of sailing firsts on record. But the story turns on the sheer derring-do Lewis brings to his, and his four French shipmates', quest: how they handled 50-foot seas, survived the obligatory hurricane off Cape Horn, and weathered the crises of confidence that attend such moments. (Just as daunting, if less romantic, is their struggle with skin rot, frayed tempers, and exhaustion.) Surprisingly appealing are the scholarly digressions into nautical time and distance, latitude, and such minutiae as why navigators ought never sit athwart ship; these facts give a balance to all the manly deeds. But risk-taking is what this story is about, and its virtues are extolled time and again by Lewis and coauthor Levitt (a historian of the America's Cup), with praise heaped on the French for their pursuit of extreme sports, frequent recourse to Shakespeare's ``bear affliction till it do cry out itself,'' and the glories obtained by living a life on ``the edge.'' Then again, Lewis and his cohorts beat Fogg to the finish (they also trounced the actual record of 109 days), so maybe a little bombast is the guy's due. (maps) Read full book review >