Four months adrift in the Pacific: a couple’s extraordinary feat of endurance

It is every writer’s dream to glimpse, peeping out from behind a news story or feature, the contours of a book. Brian Masters was eating his breakfast on 12 February 1983 when he read in the morning papers reports of the arrest of a mildly spoken Jobcentre employee accused of strangling a number of men with whose flesh he had blocked the drains in his flat in Muswell Hill. Masters wrote to Dennis Nilsen. Nilsen wrote back: ‘Dear Mr Masters, I pass the burden of my life on to your shoulders.’ After Nilsen had filled 50 prison notebooks, Masters embarked on Killing for Company, surely the grisliest yet most poignant

How the America’s Cup gave rise to world’s most elegant yachts

With the 37th America’s Cup a mere two years away, a small number of the world’s billionaires are busily pouring vast quantities of cash into building the AC75 monohull racing yachts that will skim across the sea off Barcelona at speeds of up to 60 mph, all in pursuit of a trophy colloquially called ‘the Auld Mug’ that the winner will be allowed to take home, but not keep. The America’s Cup is possibly the most bizarre and arcane contest in the history of international sport, having started at the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851 when the Earl of Winton, Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron, gracefully invited

An elegy on yachting

Patmos A very long time ago I wrote in these here pages that spending a summer on the Riviera or the Greek isles without a boat was as useless as a eunuch in a cathouse. That was then and this, alas, is now. The French and Greek seas are the same, if a little bit more crowded, but the people with boats are very, very different. Back then one knew almost everyone worth knowing — that is, everyone with a smart sailing boat, and a few with gin palaces that were graceful. These modern horrors that look like refrigerators on steroids, with top-heavy superstructures from bow to stern, helicopters, jet

Sailing’s coming home: the stunning Ben Ainslie comeback

Alan Bond was a rogue and a rich man, in every way your typical Aussie larrikin. In 1983 he bankrolled Australia’s challenge for the America’s Cup, the blue-riband sailing trophy held permanently until then by the New York Yacht Club. Sensationally, Australia won and that triumph did as much as anything to put rocket fuel under the young country’s confidence and self-belief. Australians still remember the massive crowds pouring out to welcome their winning boat’s return to Sydney Harbour. Now, whisper it, something very similar could be happening for Great Britain across the Tasman Sea. There on the waters of the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland, Sir Ben Ainslie is leading

How the NHS has coped with the second wave

Across Europe, hospitals have been filling up again with the second wave of coronavirus. France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands have all been hit, as has the Midwest of the United States. In England we’ve gone from fewer than 500 Covid-positive patients in hospital at the start of September to nearly 15,000 now. Each morning, we anxiously scrutinise the overnight figures. Thankfully, in the past week Covid inpatient numbers have begun to plateau — although they’ve still been rising in parts of the Midlands, London and Kent. So it’s an uneven picture. But unlike in March, community testing gives hospitals advance warning, so we’re able to adjust the provision