Unseen footage of doomed Donald Crowhurst
Would-be racing circumnavigator Donald Crowhurst, 36, left his four children, anxious wife, ailing marine electronics company, and a re-mortgaged house behind him in Devon to enter the Sunday Times Golden Globe solo, round-the-world, non-stop race in 1968. He never returned.
Now a moving 93 minute documentary, Deep Water, recounting his story is to be shown on Channel 4 next Monday. For the first time, Crowhurst’s widow Clare and one of his sons, Simon, are interviewed on camera about the ill-fated voyage of Crowhurst’s trimaran Teignmouth Electron.
Once Crowhurst discovered the hatches leaked, and that she was unlikely to make it across the Southern Ocean, he started to meander in the South Atlantic, making up a phoney log which charted a course around the world. However as others dropped out of the race, he was faced with the ghastly realization that he would ‘win’ the £5,000 prize for making the fastest circuit.
Knowing his logs would be scrutinized and his fraud revealed, Crowhurst is believed to have jumped overboard. Others interviewed for the film include Sir Robin Knox-Johnston who did win the race and who donated his £5,000 prize to the Crowhurst family, and Francoise Moitessier de Cazalet, whose husband Bernard couldn’t face the razzmatazz of winning and simply carried on sailing! The film comes from the producers of Touching the Void, the well received documentary about survival in mountaineering.
Who can forget the passage in the book of his demise: The Strange Voyage of Donald Crowhurst, where, after having made up his fraudulent voyage, the sailor receives a message from his press agent saying that 250,000 people are awaiting his triumphant return in Teignmouth ?
Likewise you will not forget the poignant footage of his toddler children accompanying him out to the doomed trimaran in a leaky clinker skiff. It had me wanting to claw the tv screen trying to stop him going any further. He wept alone in his bedroom the night before setting off knowing the enormity of the events he had set in train. His wife wished she had stepped in and stopped him. Don’t miss it.