Yesterday, I saw a documentary on the Independent Film Channel (IFC) called "Deep Water." It was about a late '60s, 'round-the-world yacht race. Or so I thought at first. It was actually a biopic on an amateur sailor, Donald Crowhurst, who was briefly, spectacularly famous.
It's tougher to get the gist of it from the write-ups. The documentary is well-put-together and recommended. In it, you even get a taste, from his logbook(s), of how his christ-exposure factored into his increasingly delusional worldview.
Originally Posted by PBS' Independent Lens
In 1968, The Sunday Times of London announced the first solo, non-stop, around-the-world sailing race. A prize of £5,000 was offered for the fastest voyage. Competitors were required to set sail before October 31 to avoid the fury of a winter at sea.
DEEP WATER follows Donald Crowhurst, a 36-year-old father of four and owner of an ailing marine electronics business, as he attempted to win the fastest voyage prize. With funding from a local businessman, Crowhurst bought a trimaran—the newest and quickest boat available at the time—on the condition that if he lost the race, he’d have to buy the boat back, a purchase that would propel him into bankruptcy. Naming his boat the Teignmouth Electron, Crowhurst set sail on the October 31 deadline, unable to complete the innovative designs he had planned.
After a slow start, Crowhurst began to radio a series of increasingly record-breaking daily distances to his delighted press agent in England, who embellished the mileages before relaying them to the public. Crowhurst’s family was thrilled by his sudden progress. But in reality he was slipping further and further behind his stated position. In his leaking boat, he began a second logbook with a list of elaborately calculated false positions on spare sheets. At that point he was weeks away from where the rest of the world thought he is.
Nine months later, the race was down to two competitors. When Crowhurst was deemed the certain winner, he began to panic, knowing that if he returned to England, his fraudulent journey would be exposed.
DEEP WATER uses Donald Crowhurst’s original 16mm films and tape recordings to re-construct his extraordinary journey. Through re-enactments and interviews with family and friends, the film reveals his maritime inexperience and the eventual ending that shocked a nation.
Wikipedia has a more detailed account: