This Week’s Book Review - Prevailing Wind

Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.

Book Review

Yacht Racing in New York

Reviewed by Mark Lardas
June 23, 2024

“Prevailing Wind,” by Thomas Dolby, Archway Publishing, June 2024, 320 pages, $39.99 (hardcover), $24.99 (paperback), $5.99 (ebook)

The America’s Cup yacht race is one of the oldest sports events. It started in 1854 and is still going strong.

“Prevailing Wind,” by Thomas Dolby, is a novel centered on the race, set in the second decade of the 20th century.

Brothers Davey and Jacob Haskell are lobstermen in Deer Island, Maine. Davey is 16, Jacob 21.They see a way to escape their poverty-stricken existence when Harold Vanderbilt brings his yacht to Deer Harbor. He is seeking a crew for the upcoming America’s Cup Race. A generation earlier Deer Harbor men, including the Haskells’ father, crewed a winning America’s Cup yacht. Vanderbilt hopes to recapture that lighting.

Both brothers are consummate sailors. Both expect to win a place on the crew, and earn high wages. An accident during a tryout race dashes their hopes. It leaves Davey crippled and Jacob bitter. After Davey’s long hospitalization and recovery, Vanderbilt finds Davey a place at the New York Yacht Club in its library. Jacob disappears, shipping out as a sailor, leaving their parents unauded.

At the New York Yacht Club library Davey becomes involved in preparations for the 1914 America’s Cup race. He is picked to work aboard the committee boat in the trials to choose the American defender in that year’s America’s Cup. He also learns his brother Jacob is crewing aboard the British challenger, Thomas Lipton’s Shamrock IV.

His position in the library puts in him in the position to learn about yacht design, yacht racing, and perhaps a course to a career in naval architecture. It also reveals disquieting secrets about a previous America’s Cup race, the one in which his father crewed aboard the winning yacht.

The opening of World War 1 in August leads to a cancellation of the 1914 America’s Cup race. It also leads to a climatic challenge race around Manhattan Island by the two yachts that would have raced against each other, Shamrock IV and Vanitie. The purse is $1 million to the winning owner and one of the Haskell is aboard each yacht.

Dolby perfectly captures the excitement of yacht racing. He writes so even those unfamiliar with sail will understand the technical aspects of sailing. He also extensively (perhaps too extensively) footnotes all nautical terms for better understanding. “Prevailing Wind” offers a first-rate adventure, set amid the glitter of America’s rich contrasting with the gritty poverty of New York City’s poor.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is