CAPSIZE! by Nicolas Angel


Email this review


In 1979 Nicolas Angel and four young French friends decided to compete in an Atlantic crossing from New York to France in a trimaran, a kind of spider with two long outer floats. Sailing to New York from Bermuda, they hit bad weather; as they rose above one enormous wave, their right float caught a heavy wind, the ship was held almost on end, and then flopped like a pancake when a second wave slammed into it. Very unlikely in such a stable-seeming craft--but there they were, capsized and cramped into an attached safety module. As the trimaran began to sink, they threw out an inflatable rubber raft and, once the reluctant ""bib"" inflated, clambered into it; but before they were settled, a wave sounding like a jet plane knocked them out of the raft along with most of their gear. Then, every five or six minutes for eight clays and nights, they heard this stomach-knotting wave bear down on them. Because of the danger of capsizing again, four men stayed ""below"" with their weight against the forward wall, while the fifth, on his knees, watched for the ever-returning howler. They bailed, they sponged, without a moment's respite. Delirious Nicolas thought he saw three-masted schooners. Cartesian minds dwelled on the metaphysics of survival. Physical shock and punishment grew; ships passed by, deaf to their radio, blind to flares; chafing agonized all. Two of the men began fading, their heartbeats slowing in the flesh-hardening cold. At last an Italian (Liberian) tanker, like a floating crystal palace, nearly ran them down in the night--before spotting their flares. A year later, we hear, all five see life more relaxedly, as atheists touched now with mystical notions; but they are maddened by the stupidity of whoever designed the uniformly inadequate life-saving gear. Vigorously told, with amusing gallows-humor dialogue.

Pub Date: July 13th, 1981
Publisher: Norton