Julia Jones, Yachting Monthly's literary reviewer discusses The Complete Yachtmaster (10th edition), by Tom Cunliffe: "This isn’t a comprehensive book but it’s an invaluable one."
The Complete Yachtmaster (10th edition)
Adlard Coles £25
This is the book for people who plan to cruise under sail – perhaps manage whole passages without motoring!
He is enthusiastic for them all but nothing exceeds ‘the mystical pleasure that flows from the way a sailing craft converts the passing air into forward motion.’ Quite.
Cunliffe’s essential approach remains a directly sensory one: feeling the breeze, watching the ripples and the sky, noting the bow-wave generated by a moored buoy.
This type of learning can be as effectively reinforced from a book as any other skill, all of which must be translated from the page to the deck.
Cunliffe does this better than any other of the current pass-your-RYA-exams authors.
Because he is trying to inculcate principles rather than give recipes he also, naturally, recognises diversity in yacht types, shapes, rigs and handling qualities.
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His prose is a pleasure to read and he makes good use of his own autobiography charting his personal progress from the engineless pilot cutter (and her predecessors) to fibreglass Mason 44 bought in Florida.
He’s very acute, for instance, about what he hopes for but doesn’t always find in modern yacht computer systems.
This new edition of The Complete Yachtmaster includes a section incorporating Radar and AIS into collision avoidance.
There are a few very minor downsides – the language of bunts and bights comes so naturally to Cunliffe that he may not realise some readers might like a glossary; he does offer a ‘jargon-buster’ for the new area of electronic collision avoidance.
And although he acknowledges the new ‘climate of gender discussion’, still all his photos are of men in command.
Those are petty gripes, however.
This isn’t a comprehensive book but it’s an invaluable one.
As well as teaching new skills and revising old ones, it will also encourage skippers to reflect on their own practice, priorities and sailing pleasure.
I’m glad to have it.
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