With The Amazing Race through its tenth season, the concept of racing around the world for a prize isn't exactly groundbreaking. In 1968, however, people were startled by the idea of sailing around the world. In documentary form, Deep Water recounts the first round-the-world boat race, and the tragic adventures of a one man who stood up to the challenge.
In 1968, The Sunday Times announced the first non-stop, round-the-world sailing competition. Anyone who attempted a continuous circumnavigation was automatically entered. The first man to the finish line would receive the Golden Globe; the second a cash prize. Article continues below
Donald Crowhurst -- a 36-year-old father of four with a struggling marine electronics business -- decides to complete. Donald believes a trimaran -- an innovative new sailboat -- will win the race. A local businessman agrees to fund the boat construction, but only if Crowhurst will buy it back if he fails to complete the voyage... which would leave him bankrupt and homeless.
After speaking with a local PR guru, Crowhurst decides to set sail from Teignmouth, England and names the boat Teignmouth Electron. He doesn't quite have the boat ready for the October 31 deadline, but must set sail to qualify for the competition.
Crowhurst makes slow progress during the first two weeks at sea. Teignmouth Electron starts leaking from the hatches, and a mechanism designed to bring the boat upright during a capsize remains unfinished. If our brave sailor continues into the ocean with no way of bailing out a leaking boat, he may die; however, if he returns home without finishing, he'll be bankrupt. Not exactly an easy choice.
Directors Louise Osmond
and Jerry Rothwell
offer a well-researched documentary. Deep Water takes the audience right there with the sailors with tape recordings and 16mm videos created by those at sea. The film explains the human mind can become its own worst enemy when sailing for 243 days straight. That's when Crowhurst reportedly stepped off the side of his boat, leaving the Teignmouth Electron abandoned in the Atlantic.
Clearly, Deep Water -- narrated by Tilda Swinton
-- is hoping to ride the wave of success created by 2004's Touching the Void, the British mountain-climbing documentary that won multiple awards and scored well in the box office (the films share the same producer). It doesn't have the same emotional resonance as Void, but Deep Water does offer an engaging, real-life account for those who think The Amazing Race is as intense as a round-the-world race can get.