Night Race to Kawau

Tessa Duder

Tessa Duder writes excellent young women characters, including the fabulous Sam, the 12 year old at the heart of this story of adventure and crisis on a family sailing race 40km across the Hauraki Gulf from Auckland to Kawau Island. The race, a regular event in Auckland sailing calendar, and Duder's clear skill and knowledge in and around sailing grants this classic of New Zealand Young Adult fiction a compelling sense of realism where a chain of events leave Sam, her mother and younger sister, all novice night sailors, keeping the family boat together. (With thanks to Goodreads Malcolm who rated it 4 stars).

Deciding to go on the basis of a good forecast, despite the adult crewman not turning up, the weather unexpectedly blows up and dad the skipper is concussed whilst on the foredeck. Set in the 1980's, they have no radio or mobile phones; the racing fleet is sailing past them fast and aggressively; the destination port is crowded and tricky, especially in the dark; the skipper – who had always been the one in charge before – is now alternately comatose and dangerously disorientated. It's not surprising that mum get close to despair at times. Sam, alternately supporting her mother and relying on her, has to grow up fast. Even after dropping anchor there is a final scary challenge for Sam and her sister to overcome.

Tessa Duder writes well – her journalist training keeps the narrative tight - and has deep experience and knowledge of her settings, notably the sea, sailing and swimming (in her award winning Alex quartet).

Reviewed by Bill Dashfield, September 2020

This article is ©2020 by Bill Dashfield, and posted on All Things Ransome with permission.

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