Lone Sailors and Spiritual Insights

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This book examines a number of autobiographical and biographical works which substantiate the author’s thesis that solo sailors, who face peril at sea and come to terms with the sea’s indifference, can undergo a transformation which leads to what he terms spiritual purpose or ‘moral presence’.


“In the final analysis, the author manages to transcend sport and provide us with some maxims about life in situations that provoke us to confront our mortality and to eschew old paradigms for new ... or to succumb to old paradigms. He aptly describes the dynamic tension between the tenacious adherence to technical self-reliance and the compelling nature of the moral presence ... a lack of knowledge of sailing and theology is not a deterrent to an appreciation for the unique yet accessible thesis of this book." – Professor Thomas Merluzzi, University of Notre Dame

“In this engaging and well-written volume, the author contributes to the psychological study of religion through an exploration of sport and spirituality among solo sailors. To venture out to sea alone, he suggests, is to push oneself to extremes, to face serious existential realities of life and death, and to test – to the ultimate – the quality of one’s character ... This book will interest psychologists of religion, psychologists of sport, and many others. It is a wise book, with much to teach us about spirituality, morality and meaning, whether our sea journeys are literal of metaphorical.” – Professor Diane Jonte-Pace, Santa Clara University

“The author has written a book that should be of considerable interest to sport psychologists, theologians, philosophers and any others concerned about how the spiritual can be encountered in everyday life ... the stories [the author] tells are often based around real events and personalities and it is this quality that allows the reader to grasp complex ideas with remarkably little effort ... The admirable result of this is a book that will appeal to dedicated sailors, academics and athletes of whatever level and sport who recognise that definitions of what it is to be human must include reference to something beyond the purely material ...“ – Mark Nesti, Reader in Sport Psychology, York St John College

“As the author notes in this wonderful book, the long-distance sailor caught in heavy seas is a symbol that humans are ‘only marginal at best amidst the grand and dramatic forces of the universe’ ... the author brings together his deep background in the psychology of religion and his avocation of sailing to examine the spiritual lives of contemporary solo long-distance yachtsmen (and women ... other readers will find ... that the author has distilled ways of being religious – or, to use the new phraseology, ways of living spiritually – that we see in ourselves, in our companions and even in our political leaders. The author is a good skipper who takes his readers on a fascinating voyage of self-discovery.” – Dennis Klass, Professor Emeritus, Webster University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface by Jim McKay
1. Sport and Human Character
2. A Project on the Sport of Yachting
3. The Chichester Paradigm: Competitive Racing
4. The Slocum Paradigm: Leisurely Cruising
5. Breakdown of Technical Self-Reliance
6. Selfhood, Psychoanalysis and Moral Presence
7. Taking Bearings on Lone Yachtsmen at Sea
8. Self-Excess, Weathered Finesse: Donald Crowhurst and Robin Knox-Johnson
9. Cosmic Quest, Nothing Less: Bernard Moitessier
10. Personal Best, Challenging Test: Naomi James and Kay Cottee
11. Dreams, Nightmares and Helpless Peril at Sea: Jesse Martin and Tami Ashcraft

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