In 1968 Great Britain Sunday Times announced it is sponsoring a race for the first person to sail the world alone without ever setting foot on land. They hoped it would be an inspiring adventure story that would move many papers. Instead, they accidentally opened some sort of portal to the nightmare dimension. Things would have gotten less cosmically awful if they had held a competition to make the most offensive hand gesture to Cthulhu. Nine boats would eventually leave the UK to win the award. Only one would finish the race. The others would drown in an ocean of madness.
To be fair Sunday TimesThey were just trying to revive some madness from a bygone era. As the 19th century came to an end, people found themselves more urban and more independent and bored than ever before. Traditional city pleasures (public executions) had gone out of fashion and their modern equivalent (Vanderpump rules) wasn’t invented so people were desperate for something to pass the time. America’s inner-city hardships were so hungry for entertainment that they all became massive Shakespeare fans and fought bloody street fights which actor Macbeth played better about. The good citizens of London had now passed around six months shout “Quoz!” on each other and collapse in fits of giggles without an outside observer ever being able to see.
Fortunately, people could always count on the most popular crowd puller of the era: a big insane race over dangerous terrain. Americans bullied newspaper kiosks to follow competitions like this Race from Chadron to Chicago, which started as a bad joke but got so out of control that the jokes actually had to host an epic 1000 mile horse race through the Nebraska Badlands. The invention of air travel only exacerbated the drama when crowds turned out to be bloodbaths like that of 1911 Race from Paris to MadridMeanwhile, an airplane turned off the runway and crashed propeller first into the VIP cabin, cutting a minister in half. The pilots then had to fight angry eagles with revolvers while the victor was so overwhelmed by the fury of the heavens that mental health professionals dragged him away from the terrified King of Spain.
The mad races were eventually replaced by a new popular pastime (who died in World War I), but the Times hoped to revive the fad. Unfortunately, the era was over and experienced professionals largely spurned the race. Instead, a ragged collection of amateurs and outsiders signed up for the big cash prize. Typical was Nigel Tetley, who enjoyed setting up his trimaran around the UK and racing on a whim after reading about it in the newspaper over breakfast. While preparing for departure, he came across the legendary French sailor Bernard Moitessier, who insistently stated that a trimaran was not the right ship for the trip as it would be impossible to roll to the right if it were run over, which meant it was a single slip one possible death sentence. Tetley happily ignored him when Moitessier showed up with a series of threatening gifts, including a wetsuit, a lifeboat, and a large saw to cut apart a damp hull.