Review of Deep Water directed by Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell
rating *** 1/2
This is a story about a race to be the first and fastest to sail around the world solo and non-stop. The event took place in 1968 through 1969. At first the story plays out as you would expect. There are nine competitors. You know that all of them are not going to complete the journey. The film makers focus on one particular competitor — Donald Crowhurst. He is not particularly skilled at sailing, but he is a risk taker and the prospect of a cash payout to the man who completes the journey in the fastest time draws him in.
What Crowhurst lacks in sailing experience he makes up in design skills. He succeeds in finding a financial backer to pay for the construction of a radical new boat, a three haul catamaran like boat designed for speed. There is one caveat. Should he not complete the trip, he is required to pay back the investor in full.
As the deadline for beginning the race approaches, it becomes apparent that the boat will not be fully completed in time. But with the contract commitment hanging over his head, Crowhurst decides to leave anyway on the very last day allowed.
One look at the boat and you can tell that his chances are not good. His innovative design has a sleek low haul that would be ideal for racing on an inland lake, but it’s low haul is a distinct disadvantage in the open ocean where waves can easily wash over the boat. He starts taking on water soon after he sets sail.
A few weeks into the race he realizes that continuing on through the southern oceans would be suicide. But if he were to return home, he would face financial ruin. This is where the story turns on its head and becomes much more fascinating that a simple man against the sea story. Crowhurst comes up with a third option. To tell you what that third option is and how it plays out would spoil the surprise. So I am not going to reveal what happens here. You’ll have to rent the DVD to find out.
The filmmakers do an excellent job of telling the story with limited archive film and audio. What they lack in material from the actual event, they more than make up for with insightful and poignant interviews from friends, family, and reporters. The interviews with his wife and son as well as the interview with his best friend are very compelling.
Only one man completed the journey, and he is one of those interviewed. He is a noble man and should be applauded for what he did at the end of this story.
As for the other competitors, their stories take a back seat to the Crowhurst story, but there is one compelling side story. One of the competitors decided that he liked the solemness of the open sea so much that he instead of heading home he turned and sailed off for another trip around the world, finally ending his journey several months later in Tahiti.
This is one of those truth is stranger than fiction stories. You couldn’t have dreamed up this scenario. Rent this DVD; you won’t be disappointed.
The DVD has some additional background interviews that are also insightful and help paint a fuller picture of how the pieces of the story fell together.