Knecht, G. Bruce
Knecht, G. Bruce
PERSONAL: Male. Education: Attended Colgate University; Harvard University, M.B.A.
ADDRESSES: Office—c/o Wall Street Journal, 200 Burnett Rd., Chicopee, MA 01020.
CAREER: Journalist. Wall Street Journal, foreign correspondent.
AWARDS, HONORS: Reuters fellow at Oxford University.
The Proving Ground: The Inside Story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2001.
Hooked: Pirates, Poaching, and the Perfect Fish, Roale (Emmaus, PA), 2006.
Contributor to Conde Nast Traveler, New York Times, Sail, and Atlantic Monthly.
SIDELIGHTS: In The Proving Ground: The Inside Story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race, G. Bruce Knecht, a Wall Street Journal correspondent, recounts the story of 1998's Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race, which culminated in one of the worst disasters in modern ocean-racing history.
Knecht used his skill and training as a journalist to interview survivors and parse police documents and inquest findings. He presents in detail the heroic exploits—as well as the failures and tragic miscalculations—of three world-class yachts in the race, which he makes clear is one of the world's "most treacherous" sporting events.
Many yachtsmen believe that the Sydney-Hobart Race is cursed, but rationalists are content with another explanation: the race crosses the 140-mile-wide Bass Strait between Australia's mainland and Tasmania, acknowledged as some of the roughest water in the world. Knecht emphasizes that this danger is perhaps the race's main attraction for sailors. In 1998 over one hundred yachts began the race, and only forty-three completed it; the remainder quit to return to shore or were lost in a cyclone that traveled the race's path. Among the competitors were Larry Ellison, owner of the Oracle software company and the world's second-richest man, Lachlan Murdoch, son of Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch, and businessman Richard Winning, owner of the Winston Churchill, whose actions after his ship sank saved some, but not all, of his crew.
Knecht also addresses the issue of responsibility for the five deaths caused by the race, relating how the Australian weather bureau, modern boat construction, the organizers of the expensive and well-watched race, and even some of the yachts' skippers contributed to the fatalities. In the investigations that followed the disaster, a weather bureau was blamed by some for not providing an accurate forecast of the terrible weather that overtook the yachts. The author notes, however, that many sailors shrugged off an early warning of gale-force winds. As a reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle noted: "The gung-ho spirit is captured in a statement by publishing magnate Rupert Murdoch, whose twentysomething son was in the race. When told that the weather was the worst anyone could remember, Murdoch replied: 'Good. It sounds like it's character building.'"
Critics commented on Knecht's novelistic style, while noting the journalistic discipline of the writing. In the Times Literary Supplement, Chris Wallace-Crabbe commented that "Knecht's mastery of the technical details makes the ensuing race compelling." The reviewer added: "It is at heart a depiction of a battle between elemental forces and human determination. It is very hard to put down, and full of information, such as how yachts must steer to ride prodigious waves, what VHF radios can do, how spinnakers and mainsails are destroyed, and the advantages of a carbon fiber hull." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented: "Coolness under pressure marks not only the subject of Wall Street Journal correspondent Knecht's highly praised book about the ill-fated 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race but also its writing and reading."
In his second book, Hooked: Pirates, Poaching, and the Perfect Fish, Knecht delves into the poaching of Chilean sea bass, initially known by the unappetizing name of Patagonian toothfish. The author delves into the crime of poaching and recounts how the Patagonian toothfish became the "Chilean sea bass" and a favorite on restaurant menus, leading to its overfishing. Knecht, however, wraps the story around the adventurous high-seas search for poachers by an Australian patrol boat and its crew, who travel through the stormy Antarctic waters to hunt down the poachers. In a review of Hooked in the Library Journal, Margaret Rioux referred to the account as "a tale of high-seas adventure." A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the author "deftly brings into play such figures as fisheries biologists, bigtime criminal seafood operators and chef Rick Moonen, whose signature dish was miso-glazed Chilean sea bass." Another reviewer, writing for Publishers Weekly, called the narrative "gripping."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Boston Herald, August 3, 2001, review of The Proving Ground: The Inside Story of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race, p. 40.
Business Week, June 18, 2001, review of The Proving Ground, p. 30.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2006, review of Hooked: Pirates, Poaching, and the Perfect Fish, p. 276.
Law Society Journal, September, 2001, Patrick Macalister, review of The Proving Ground, p. 95.
Library Journal, May 15, 2001, Edwin B. Burgess, review of The Proving Ground, p. 130; May 1, 2006, Margaret Rioux, review of Hooked, p. 116.
National Geographic Adventure, September, 2001, Anthony Brandt, review of The Proving Ground, p. 62.
People Weekly, July 30, 2001, review of The Proving Ground, p. 41.
Publishers Weekly, March 6, 2006, review of Hooked, p. 61.
San Francisco Chronicle, June 10, 2001, review of The Proving Ground, p. 72.
School Library Journal, December, 2001, Dory De-Spain, review of The Proving Ground, p. 176.
Times Literary Supplement, September 21, 2001, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, review of The Proving Ground, p. 31.
Washington Post, June 27, 2001, Kate Hensler Fogarty, review of The Proving Ground, p. C3.