Yachting Monthly's literary reviewer, Julia Jones reviews the latest Roger Taylor book charting his adventures aboard his engineless 24ft yacht Mingming II
Roger Taylor’s most recent titles have the ring of an adventure series (think Harry Potter books or the Indiana Jones films) and that’s how they read.
The central character, however, is not a teenage wizard or fedora- wearing archaeology professor but a small, 24ft concept yacht.
Mingming II is junk-rigged, bilge-keeled and designed with such rationality that the human element (Roger Taylor) can travel with her for 56 days, covering 3,480 miles, only needing to exit her main hatch seven times.
When conditions are at their toughest, Taylor has no need to struggle into foulies and grapple with sail changes; her furls the single sail and either heaves-to or trusts the self-steering gear.
Then he lashes himself into the leeward bunk and trusts her in-built buoyancy to ride the rhythm of the seas.
In this fifth (and possible final) instalment Mingming II carries Taylor north of Svalbard, then east along the line of 81°N into the usually inaccessible Queen Victoria Sea.
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They sail close to the islands of Franz Josef Land until they discover their ‘limit of rational endeavour’.
Taylor’s lucid explanations can be watched on his videos: this book offers his reflections on the overall experience.
Mingming II’s voyage took place in 2018 and should have been impossible because these areas are normally ice-bound.
As he looks back to earlier explorations and forward to a possible ice-free future Taylor knows he is ‘sailing along the cusp of a seismic shift in our species’ relationship with its world.’
He feels the grief yet achieves intellectual distance and some challenging insights.
Mingming II and the Impossible Voyage is philosophical but not gloomy.
It has passages of lunatic humour and conveys the sweetness of the small yacht herself as she frolics home.
Taylor and Mingming were previously awarded the 2010 Ocean Cruising Club Jester Medal for their ‘outstanding contribution to single-handed sailing’.
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