Deep Water, 93 mins, rated G,
DVD release on 17 April 2008, RRP: $39.95
By MICHELE ASPREY, Lawyer
[This is my review as published in
the April 2008 issue of The New South Wales Law Society Journal]
In May 1967, Francis Chichester, aged 66, completed the first solo
circumnavigation of the globe, in his famous boat, Gipsy Moth IV. He
was instantly world-famous. 250,000 well-wishers greeted him on arrival
in Plymouth. It had taken him 9 months and one day. We in Australia
were particularly connected to this feat. Chichester had stopped in
Sydney along the way to do some major repairs.
Primary school children in Australia followed his journey, plotting his
positions with pins and flags on maps of the world in their social
studies classes. His success was part of a kind of English
renaissance – “a new Elizabethan Age,” as PR man Ted Hynds put it. It
was a great time for PR men.
The Sunday Times immediately set a new challenge: “The Golden Globe”
race. Competitors would again sail single-handed around the world – but
this time without stopping. They could leave at any time before 1
October 1968. There would be prizes for the first boat home, and the
fastest time. 9 yachtsmen took the challenge. 8 were experienced
seamen. The documentary film, Deep Water, tells the story of the
The film, out on DVD this month, tells the story of amateur seaman,
Donald Crowhurst, and his just-built, unproven 12-metre trimaran, the
strikingly-named “Teignmouth Electron”. Crowhurst, a weekend sailor,
had an electronics business called “Electron Utilisation Limited”, and
had invented a navigational aid, the radio direction finder called the
“Navicator”. In order to publicise his failing business, he entered the
Golden Globe race.
His quest to win the prize took him from incredible optimism and daring
– some would say blind faith – to the edge of insanity. Along the way
he found himself literally and metaphorically in “deep water,” as he
faced challenges that were physical, mental, and ethical.
Deep Water had a short
release on the big screen last year, in Australia and elsewhere. If,
like me, you blinked and missed it, here is your chance to see it at
your leisure. It’s a story full of amazing twists and turns, and great
highs and lows. The truth about Crowhurst’s journey is jaw-droppingly
Crowhurst recorded some of his voyage on 16mm film and audio tape.
Another competitor, the poet and philosopher Bernard Moitessier, also
took some beautiful film footage, and his ship’s log is quite lyrical.
In addition to these resources, the film makers use contemporary
newsreel, newsprint, and many interviews with Crowhurst’s and the other
sailors’ families, friends, PR agents, and journalists.
One advantage of the DVD is the “bonus material.” There are several
short films about the other competitors, their families, and the
journalists involved. There are many still photographs, some
“interactive,” and other resources to fill out the story.
But the film itself is a fascinating document. It was produced by
Darlow Smithson Productions, which also produced the superb documentary
Touching the Void (2003),
reviewed here in June 2004. The eventual winner of the prize for
first home did the journey in 312 days – that’s nearly a year – in
almost total isolation. In 1968 there was no GPS. Once you were over
the horizon, you were, as the film says, “in oblivion”. The film
explores what that, and the pressure to perform, can do to a man’s
mind. It also raises questions about the point at which daring and
heroism crosses over into selfishness and even madness. Is the
difference just a matter of success or failure?
The Golden Globe race received a huge amount of publicity world-wide.
It was promoted as “The Everest of the Seas”. Yet I recall nothing of
it from that time. Perhaps, after the excitement of Chichester in 1967,
and in the lead-up to the first moon landing in July 1969, the Golden
Globe race was overlooked. But the story of that race is just as
compelling in human terms. It is a journey through the deep waters of
the mind and soul of man.