Book Review: Nick Ward: “Left For Dead”

I studied history for the past 4 years as part of my undergraduate. I think thats how I became a history teacher. During this time I didnt get to read many books from cover to cover. I just had to zone in on whatever topic my assignment or essay was on and hope that the person who had the book before me had underlined the relevant parts.

When I finished my degree I decided that one thing that would do me well in my future career would be to read more history books. So I decided that the only books I will read for the next while would be historical. Some would be straight up history books, others would be biographical, others would be history based novels. Did I mention that I’m an exciting guy? No, oh pardon my rudeness. I’m an exciting guy, I broke lent once.

The latest book I am going to review is Nick Ward’s: “Left For Dead”


“Gripping”. That is the one word I would use to describe this book. Even if you have not got an interest in sailing or the weather, this book will draw you in and keep you reading until the last number of the barcode on the back cover. Just do it.

In August of 1979, Nick Ward, and a crew of four others, began the 600-mile course of the UK’s Fastnet Race with perfect weather aboard the yacht Grimalkin. Within 48 hours, the deadliest storm in the history of modern sailing had blasted through the Irish Sea. By the time it had passed, it had thrown one of the world’s most prestigious races into bedlam and taken the lives of fifteen sailors. Ward’s boat was capsized again and again, and the skipper lost overboard; after hours of struggle, three of the crew fled the boat for the liferaft. Nick and his crewmate Gerry, both injured, unconscious, and presumed dead, were abandoned on the beleaguered yacht. Gerry died a few hours later, and Nick was left alone to face down a storm that has become legendary among sailors and racing fans alike. “Left for Dead” is Nick Ward’s harrowing and inspirational memoir of how he survived that dreadful night.


In the book, Nick (along with co-writer Sinead O’Brien) captures the raw emotion of human despair and desperation as one man struggles to survive against the most unforgiving elements of nature. The fact that this book exists at all is a miracle in itself as one is left constantly wondering, with each page, how on earth Nick survived this catastrophic event. And this is what makes this book such a page turner. It is almost impossible to put down as the reader strives to figure out just how Nick got from his marooned yacht, being tossed around 40 foot waves on the Irish Sea, to the chair in Eason’s where he sat during his book signing some 30 years later.

With his boat left mast-less and rudder-less (The rudder is the thing that steers the ship!), Nick is left to wait out hurricane force winds in as his boat battered and thrown around in a similar manner a cork would be in a flushing toilet. The only difference is that Nick’s toilet did not stop flushing……for days. Some cistern.


Now obviously I don’t want to spoil the ending of the book for you so I’ll just say… read it. This book is for everyone. In the classroom? Maybe not….but on your summer holidays (as I did! Well….at least a day of them!), treat yourself. It is a tale of survival and a reminder of how your life can change in few short moments. How decisions and events can change friendships and unearth the fragility and futility of human life when put up against its most powerful foe, nature.


One thought on “Book Review: Nick Ward: “Left For Dead”

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Meda Ryan: “The Day Micahel Collins Was Shot” | Mr. Bender's Plog

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