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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

British Love the Art of Losing Dangerously

LONDON -- One crashed to earth, one almost drowned, but the survival of two round-the-world adventurers only proved that Britain loves nothing more than a plucky failure.


Solo yachtsman Tony Bullimore defied all odds Thursday when he was rescued from icy waters off Australia, days after capsizing in a round-the-world yacht race.


In true British style, Bullimore requested a cup of tea directly once his ordeal ended, threatened to kiss his bearded Australian rescuer and all but laughed off his injuries.


"The old dog is alive. He's bloody alive!" yelped his wife Lalel when told her 56-year-old husband had survived.


Prime Minister John Major, visiting India, heaped praise on the sailor who had been written off as dead.


There was no mention that Bullimore had failed to complete the race, just boundless celebration of the fact he had tried, failed and lived to tell the tale.


As Bullimore munched chocolate in the hull of his upturned yacht and dreamed of hot tea, British tycoon Richard Branson was heading home a hero, albeit one who had failed miserably in his own effort to circle the globe.


No stranger to feats of daring -- successes and flops alike -- Branson narrowly escaped death Wednesday when his balloon plunged into the Algerian desert hours after takeoff.


Rescuers have been summoned more than once to mop up after Branson's high-risk jaunts, but opinion polls rate him a top role model for young people and Britain's most admired businessman.


"I want to look back and think I've lived a full life," he once said.


Indeed, his will to try, try and try again -- failures be damned -- is just the "Dunkirk spirit" that Britain adores.


"The world loves a trier," said psychologist Dr. Roy Bailey. "In the grain of failure is the seed of success, and we all love the buccaneer bravado of someone who goes against the odds."


Indeed, Britain has a rich history of triers who failed and thereby earned hero status.


Take Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, a British Olympic ski-jumper lionized precisely because of his ineptitude.


Once described as having "the aerodynamic grace of a gherkin," Edwards captured Britain's heart at the 1988 Olympics by merrily crashing into barriers and joining the national pantheon of highly successful failures. He was once barred from his own news conference for lack of credentials.


But nobody epitomizes the anti-hero better than "Scott of the Antarctic," who died in a blizzard after he was narrowly beaten to the South Pole by Norwegian rival Roald Amundsen.


"We could not love him more if he had come first. In fact, we would probably love him less," Sunday Telegraph columnist Tony Parsons said of Scott.


"Heroic failure is a kind of triumph, the reaffirmation in a changing world of very British values like moderation, decency, modesty of feeling and a quiet courage."