A Guest Review by Jenre
Rudy Haas dreams of becoming an “old goat,” a sailor who’s completed twenty-five races from Port Huron to Mackinac. But when his crew throws him off the team for being gay, Rudy has to find another boat and crew to have any chance of making his dream come true. Blind luck leads him to the men of Devlin’s Due and a test run where Rudy’s toughest battle isn’t winning his place on the team—it’s fighting his attraction to team captain Ike Ujarka.
Rudy has had a passion for sailing nearly all his life and for the past four years he has been part of a crew who has raced in an important sailing gala at Port Huron. This year he has even scraped together all his savings and taken unpaid leave from his job in order to pay for the fees and take part in the race, which means that he intends sleeping on the boat as he can’t afford to pay for a hotel. He arrives at the boat, excited to be meeting up with his team, to discover that the owner of the boat has found out that Rudy is gay and so he is no longer welcome to sail with his crew. Rudy suddenly finds himself with no boat, no accommodation and a heavy feeling of betrayal, especially as he is sure that another member of the crew is also gay, but failed to stand up for him. In desperation Rudy finds a notice for a boat, Devlin’s Due, looking for another crew member and manages to get taken on with them. Rudy has an instant attraction to the captain of the boat, Ike, but doesn’t want to lose another opportunity to sail in the race.
It was very obvious from reading Fair Winds that the author is a huge fan of sailing as there are lots of references to sailing, to boats, to technical equipment and the skills needed when sailing. I have to be honest and say that much of this went over my head as I know next to nothing about boats. I didn’t find this too distracting though and I tended to ignore some of the more complex equipment mentioned thoughout the story unless it was absolutely necessary for me to know its function.
Chrissy Munder excels at writing great characters, and this book was no exception. Rudy’s passion for sailing shone through on every page, and his gripping disappointment and frustration when he is barred from the boat he has sailed on for years was just heartbreaking.
It was hard to explain to anyone who had never sailed competitively about the allure of spending three days sweating and working non-stop in damp, cold, and usually hazardous conditions with little to no sleep. But to someone who understood—the electricity, the transcendent feeling of being one with the water and the sky, and the pounding rush of adrenaline at the moment when wind, wave, and sail synchronized into one amazing unit—it was worth everything.
When Rudy gains a place in the crew of Devlin’s Due he is determined not to show weakness, despite being smaller and less powerful than the other crew members. The men who sail with Ike and Rudy were a little difficult to tell apart at first but their friendly, outgoing personalities, plus their loyalty to each other and therefore to Rudy provided some of the more heartwarming scenes in the book. Ike is a well drawn, larger than life character who excites and confuses Rudy. Rudy is supposed to be trying to hide his attraction to Ike, but to be honest fails miserably showing that Rudy has a naivety about him that was both charming and irritating on occasions.
The scenes on board Devlin’s Due were gritty and realistic, showing accurately the physical stamina needed to sail a powerful boat. I hadn’t realised the sheer physical hardship that is necessary for sailing and found those scenes quite thrilling. There was also a great deal of action and excitement which contrasted nicely with the simmering sexual tension between Rudy and Ike.
All in all Fair Winds is a great novella which kept my attention from start to finish, despite my lack of knowledge about sailing. This book has an all round appeal and will be enjoyed by those who like sailing and those, like me, who know nothing of the sport.