The Yachting Monthly editorial team reveal their pick of the best sailing films and documentaries to keep you entertained in the weeks to come. Feel free to share your favourites at firstname.lastname@example.org
The best sailing films and documentaries chosen by the YM team
Like many, we understand and accept the need to stay at home although we do feel frustrated that we can’t get out on our boats right now, so we tried to come up with the next best thing – watching films about sailing!
Here are our choices to keep you entertained in the weeks to come.
Hopefully these sailing films and documentaries will offer you a world of cruising escapism – just like Yachting Monthly does every month.
Theo Stocker – Editor chooses his favourite sailing films
*Yachting Monthly is not paid by manufacturers for our recommendations. If you click through and buy an item, we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer, at no cost to you.*
Cross 1980s America’s Cup sailing with Top Gun, and you get an idea of what Wind is about.
Cheesey it may be, but fast boats, high drama, preening egos and the obligatory love interest match genuinely well-filmed sailing sequences for one of the most quotable sailing films of all time.
Wind follows one sailor’s dream to reclaim the greatest sailing trophy of them all – the America’s Cup.
After Will Parker (Matthew Modine) fails to lead his American crew to victory against challengers, Australia, he convinces his millionaire backer, Morgan Weld (Cliff Robertson) to finance an experimental yacht.
The boat has been designed by Joe Heisler (Stellan Skarsgard), the new partner of Will’s ex-girlfriend Kate, played by Jennifer Grey.
The film has some fantastic cinematography.
As sailors we are often faced with having to solve problems, sometimes miles from home.
Just think of Jeanne Socrates and how she overcame endless equipment failure to sail solo around the world non-stop without assistance.
All of it makes good fodder for films.
Adrift is based on the book Red Sky in Mourning – Tami Oldham Ashcraft’s true account of sailing into a Pacific hurricane, dismasting, and then sailing solo under jury rig for 41 days alone to Hawaii.
Admittedly the film plays fast and lose with the true story’s facts but it is still hugely entertaining.
You feel the terror of the extreme conditions and marvel as Tami manages to solve the catalogue of near voyage-ending disasters – no matter how implausible some of it might seem.
Pure escapism, and a reminder that when the chips are down there is usually a way out.
Based on the 1961 sinking of the schooner, Albatross in the Gulf of Mexico, the Ridley Scott-directed film follows Captain Christopher Sheldon, played by Jeff Bridges, at the helm as he tries to teach fortitude and discipline to his youthful crew of Chuck Gieg (Scott Wolf), Frank Beaumont (Jeremy Sisto), Gil Martin (Ryan Phillippe) and Dean Preston (Eric Michael Cole).
When caught in a white squall, the boys use what they’ve been taught to survive. It is a bit like the Robin Williams’ classic Dead Poet’s Society, but at sea.
Jeff Bridges is solid as ‘Skipper’ who tries to make the boys men through life afloat, but some of the special effects are dodgy (At one point you can see some of them standing on the bottom of the tank).
The best part about this film (and the reason I think you should watch it) is the ship itself. The brigantine rigged Eye of the Wind, which is the Albatross in the film, is spectacular to see on the screen and it is easy to transport yourself out of your living room and almost feel the wind in the sails.
Katy Stickland – Deputy Editor chooses her favourite sailing films
Also released under the title Turning Tide, this French film follows one man’s Vendée Globe race which gets turned upside down when he stops to make repairs in the Canary Islands and lands up with a stowaway on board.
Threatened with disqualification if his stowaway is discovered, weathered skipper Yann Kermadec struggles with his emotions, having to deceive his shore team as well as handling the pressures of the race.
Yes, it is a bit predictable but it is a heartwarming tale of how two very different people become friends.
I really liked the sequence at the start of the race and how the film captures the intensity of a solo round the world yacht race. The soundtrack is pretty good too.
What is more inspiring than watching Tracy Edwards and her ground breaking all-female crew in the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race?
I have watched Maiden four times now and it still leaves me with a lump in my throat as Maiden makes her way back into Portsmouth, and punching the air when Tracy lifts up her well deserved Yachtsman of the Year Award.
Read the full review of Maiden here: ‘Powerful and inspirational’ Maiden documentary
The onboard footage is fascinating to watch, especially their second leg through the Southern Ocean which they won. You celebrate with them (Maiden won Leg 2 and 3 in their class) and feel their pain when gear failure leaves them third in Leg 5 to Fort Lauderdale.
This footage is beautifully spliced with interviews with the crew members reflecting on their race. The brutal honesty still takes my breath away. One wonders if their male rivals would be equally as honest.
And yes, the disparaging expectations of some of the male sailing journalists still grates. Attitudes are changing thankfully, although more needs to be done!
Donald Crowhurst’s tragic 1968 Golden Globe Race aboard Teignmouth Electron brought to the big screen.
This still remains one of the best sailing films I have ever seen (and being married to a sailor and Whitbread/Golden Globe Race devotee I’ve seen nearly all of them, from films like Wind and The Old Man and the Sea to documentaries including Round the World with Ridgeway and Drum).
The sailing is authentic for a Hollywood film, and yes there are some modern boats in some of the scenes shot in Teignmouth Harbour, but overall the sailing is true to life.
Read the full review here: The Mercy: ‘One of the best sailing films I’ve ever seen’
Colin Firth is standout as Crowhurst, who almost sleep walks to his fate, clinging on to the hope that he can prove the cynics wrong and win the race.
The film certainly got Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s approval who described it as ‘a great film’. What more of an endorsement do you need?
Toby Heppell – Sailing Editor chooses his favourite sailing films
There is no denying this is an absolutely bonkers film.
I’m no film connoisseur but it’s well known this film absolutely tanked at the box office and was famous for losing quite a substantial amount of money – though when you finally factor in video sales apparently it just about saw a profit.
That being said, I absolutely adored this film when it came out. I was in my early teens at the time and racing dinghies at the weekend. Even then I remember feeling like someone behind the scenes actually knew about sailing.
Sure there are moments – as in many films featuring sailing – that sails are flapping or backed and the boat is happily making way forwards as if by magic. But the key sailing scenes remain impressive to this day.
The two 60ft trimarans that where used to shoot it were still look pretty modern even now. I remember watching Kevin Costner in full silent hero mode high-tailing it from the baddies, setting off downwind and firing a kite into the sky to help him speed away.
Not a spinnaker, mind, an actual kite. It felt like an inside joke about sailing slang put there just for me. Even now, I still return to it on the odd occasion.
It’s rare to see Hollywood doing sailing. It’s rare to see this much money thrown in the direction of sailing on the screen. If you can ignore the plot, the dialogue and much of the acting it remains a solid watch.
This was a real revelation when it came out and remains a solid documentary.
Fifteen young sailors embark on six months of training with the ultimate aim to sail a TP52 across the Pacific Ocean taking part in the TRANSPAC.
The premise is that this young, inexperienced crew (made up of 18-23 year olds) sailing Morning Light race the 2,300 miles against some of sailing’s top professionals.
The whole thing was funded by Roy Disney and remains a stunning testament to the rigours of racing and sailing offshore, and how much can be achieved by young sailors give a chance.
As with Waterworld, The Perfect Storm is objectively pretty trashy. It’s made all the worse by the fact that there is no sailing at all in the film.
That it is loosely (very, very loosely) based on a true story of a fishing boat that heads out into the titular perfect storm with… consequences. It’s what keeps me coming back.
I grew up in a small town in Essex with a proud fishing tradition. The fishermen of the town would head out into the north sea on Smacks and other craft to ply their trade and, all too often, never return.
The walls of our local church are literally lined with memorials to those brave, lost men – the descendants of who still live there now.
So, The Perfect Storm may be about a fishing boat, in America, without sails, but it also serves to remind us what the sea can be capable of.
And it conjures thoughts for me, of those countless numbers who lost their lives at sea and under sail to keep the country and their families fed.
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