The Ship Would Not Travel West - David Lewis


New member
27 Apr 2006
The account by David Lewis of a the first single-handed Trans-Atlantic race in 1960 ( I think – the book does not actually give the date!). He sails Cardinal Vertue a 1948 Elkins Vertue.

The book recounts this famous race in which Chichester won in Gipsy Moth 3 and Hasler came second in Jester. Lewis came third.

Lewis as he gets dismasted within the first few hours of the race! He needs to return to the start to get the mast re-splined and astonishingly the glue sets over a day and half and then he is off again.

For those interested in the Jester challenge this is s must read book. A simple error such as not packing enough matches means Lewis has to resort to non-cooked foods at times and rations his hot drinks of course. It would seem that he has not packed enough water as he has underestimated the amount of water it takes to rehydrate the powdered food either!

By the time he reached the Grand Banks a ship comes up to him and – I must admit I never knew this, but ships should approach on the lee, as if they approach on the weather side, they blanket all wind, and the ship drifts down on a helpless yacht, which is what happens to him. The spreader is broken much to his alarm! There are many useful encounters such as this to learn from.

Personally I prefer Humphrey Barton’s, or the Woolass adventures. Learning about the constant sail changes is not really of interest and it fills a lot of the book - but that is a personal opinion.

As Lewis was a doctor, he provided everybody with a medical log in order to conduct a social experiment on how the human brain copes with such a mental ordeal. Sadly there is no conclusion published as to the results.

All in all a very interesting account as it clearly was a very challenging race – but my preference is to read single–handed cruising stories I have decided. The camaraderie was just too polite for my liking; you get the impression that everybody participating was a true gentleman and extremely modest about the hardships. This irritated me as reading between the lines it seems obvious that this a seriously a cut-throat race and I would have prefered to read about that rather than such a modest account. If your attempting the Jester challenge this is a must read book.