Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Deep Water


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Just finished watching Deep Water, a film about the first non stop sail race around the world in 1969. One of the competitors, Donald Crowhurst, a 36-year-old English businessman, who went to sea in a leaky boat and committed suicide in the Atlantic 243 days later. Now, splicing harrowing onboard audio and visual footage of Crowhurst with interviews of the sailor's friends and family, a film, Deep Water, tells the story of Crowhurst's last voyage, and his descent into madness.

A former RAF pilot with a small, ailing electronics business called Electron Utilisation, Crowhurst was, at best, an enthusiastic weekend sailor. He was also married and a father of four children. So what convinced him he should go to sea for nine months is anyone's guess. But not only was Crowhurst determined to enter the race, he was determined to win.

To understand Crowhurst's peculiar obsession with competing in this gruelling race, one needs to know that in 1968, Britain was in the grip of sailing fever. The previous year, Sir Francis Chichester had achieved the then monumental feat of sailing around the world, on his own, punctuated only by a stop in Australia. In the era of the space race, when the possibilities of human endeavour seemed limitless, the world lapped up the heroism of Chichester's achievement, and 250,000 people lined the south coast to cheer him home.

The Sunday Times, which had reaped the rewards of sponsoring Chichester's journey, was looking for a way to continue tapping into the appetite for maritime derring-do. The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race was born. Using the clipper route, from Britain, through the Atlantic and round the Cape of Good Hope; through the Indian and Pacific Oceans; round Cape Horn and back to Britain, the competition was billed as a test for the world's greatest yachtsmen.

But, to encourage entrants, no evidence of sailing experience was required, and competitors were allowed to set off any time before 31 October. A trophy for the first man to complete the course, and a separate prize of £5,000 for the fastest time, would be awarded. Out of the nine men who set off in 1968, only one, Knox-Johnston, finished.

You can rent the video at the iTunes Store for $2.99. Continue reading here.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Moitessier didn't finished.
but.....after Cap horn, he decided that racing was nothing as meaningful as the spiritual bond he felt with the sea,
he head south east instead, crossed the indian ocean for the second time and reached Tahiti without stopping on the way.
Quite a cruise!!!!

Craig Russell said...

Moittessier is one of my favorite sailors. Have read a couple of his books and really enjoyed them. When I watch his boat in the movie, I really feel inspired. What a cool cat!