DEEP WATER - the documentary - SailNet Community

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Old 12-25-2007
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DEEP WATER - the documentary

Just viewed this quite good documentary on the London Times Golden Globe Race - the first around-the-world-solo-nonstop sailing race held in 1969.

Won by Robin Knox-Johnstone (who was subsequently knighted), he was the only finisher from 9 starters. An odd race, in that you could leave at any time within a certain window with prizes for the first to complete, and also for the fastest time.

This race was frought with drama with dismastings, sinkings, etc as one by one the racers fell by the wayside. This documentary focuses primarily on the most bizarre story of all, that of Donald Crowhurst and the Tieghnmouth Electron, a 41 foot trimaran built for the race.

Using lots of BBC and other archival footage, it is interspersed with poignant present-day interviews of participants, family, friends and journalists.

Crowhurst found himself at sea in an inadequate boat, with high expectations at home, and long story short he began to falsify his progress reports, including reporting a then-record 243 mile 24 hour run, as he pursued the other racers after a last minute start. His intention was to "rejoin" the fleet as the leaders rounded the Horn and headed for England. He kept two logs, one of his "race" and one of his actual track. He even had to go ashore in Brazil for repairs, only to sneak away again without contacting his supporters.

In the end, he did announce his pending return in the thick of the remaing "fleet", but then went AWOL. A freighter found his boat drifting and abandoned and recovered the boat.

At this point the full story became known and the Press had a field day of course. A proud man, evidently Crowhurst could not see his way clear to returning to scrutiny, and could not bear the idea of exposure. Failure in the race would also have led to financial ruin, but the humiliation would have been the most untenable.

Made in 2006, it's astounding in how it reveals the primitive gear (by today's standards) these sailors used. There is also the Bernard Motiessier story, having sailed 3/4s of the way and heading to Europe he decided he could do without the publicity, crowds and hassle, turned to starboard and went through the Indian Ocean again, eventually reaching Tahiti.

Not as detailed as the books on this subject, but a good way to spend 90 minutes.
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Old 12-25-2007
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I liked Deep Water, and the book Voyage for Madmen. What the documentary did well, in my opinion, was to highlight how two men's lives were ruined when Nigel Tetley's trimaran sank 1,100 miles from the finish. At the time of the loss, Crowhurst was happy and excited and returning home "in third" (and planning to escape much media scrutiny). Or, even if the secret came out, it wouldn't be that big of deal since he would roll in last anyway.

Tetley was pushing it because he thought Crowhurst was flying (when in fact he was drifting and waiting for Tetley to pull ahead and finish). His boat broke up and sank, but he was rescued. That's when Crowhurst lost it-- there was a massive event scheduled for his triumphant return. There would be no "quiet slip into obscurity."

Tetley himself never recovered. Never raised money for another boat to finish his circumnavigation. In 1972, I believe he took his own life.

If anything, these stories point to how maybe an obsession to sail around the world may become a little too much of an obsession. As the documentary pointed out, "Dreams can kill."

(How's that for a happy Christmas message! )
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Old 12-25-2007
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Another interesting footnote from the documentary (of which I was unaware) was that Knox-Johnstone donated the then-considerable prize money of 5000 British Pounds to the Crowhurst family.
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You can read more about the Sunday Time Golden Globe race in wikipedia (sorry, cant post links yet). It's a fascinating story. The post in this forum prompted me to read about it and I ended up reading Peter Nichols 'A Journey for Madmen' and 'The strange last voyage of Donald Crowhurst'. I also just watched the Deep Water DVD, a good recap of the story, but with less detail. The shots of his wife and four children boarding the trimaran before he set sail are particularly poignant.
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Old 12-25-2007
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funny this just got posted, as I just this morning while in bed, finished reading "a Journey for Madmen". I havent seen the documentary, but would like to after reading the book. I thought the book was great, while a little depressing at the same time. I hadnt even heard about the race until the book was given to me before a few weeks ago.
I was proud that a fellow Merchant Mariner won the race
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Hailing from the West River, MD
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