'Hello Sailor' by Michael Hutchinson review
Hello Sailor: A Year Spent Adrift and All at Sea is not a cycling book per se – it’s about sailing – but it is by a cyclist, multiple British time trial champion Michael Hutchinson.
Anyone who enjoyed his previous book, The Hour, will more than likely enjoy Hello Sailor, even if they’ve never set foot on a sailing boat. And it does at least contain the occasional reference to Hutch’s cycling career.
As a teenager in Northern Ireland, Hutchinson had designs on becoming a sailor and spent many weekends racing on Belfast Lough. Despite an annoying crewmate, he had some success.
The crewmate eventually mutinied, much to Hutchinson’s relief, but Hutch eventually fell out of love with sailing after realising he was never going to make it professionally.
He had a brief academic career before turning to cycling, where he did rather better and won over 30 national titles. Fifteen years later, after ‘retiring’ from full-time cycling in 2006, Hutchinson turned back to sailing, and that’s primarily what Hello Sailor is about.
Apart from being an enjoyable way to spend a year, it’s clear that Hutch wanted to see whether he could have been a champion sailor.
This book describes his comeback in detail, starting as a minor crew member on a boat during Cowes Week and moving up to a much bigger boat in St Tropez. Hutch chronicles the season in his typically humorous and often self-deprecating style, sprinkling it with flashbacks to his youth.
As he learns, things are never the same the second time around, although it’s much easier to gain perspective when you’re older. Hello Sailor is an entertaining read, whether you’re a sailor or not.