A review of “Deep Water” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: ****

Rating: Not Rated but could be PG for mildly mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes



Fantastic historical footage and a gripping storyline launch Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell’s compelling documentary onto dramatic high seas.

Human folly is at the core of this spellbinding tale that recounts the Sunday Times of London-sponsored Golden Globe Race of 1968, a non-stop, single-handed, round-the-world sailing contest that captured the imagination of thousands.

Especially that of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst, a sailing equipment manufacturer and one of nine hopefuls who enter the race bent on victory. Crowhurst is the competition’s dark-horse, complete with a jerry-rigged trimaran and an exuberant idealism not in keeping with reality.

Crowhurst has a lot to gain, and a lot to lose. As a husband and father of four with mounting financial debts, Crowhurst is deluded into believing he has a shot at a five thousand pound cash prize for completing the fastest voyage.

The race is a psychological as well as physical test of endurance – nine or ten months at sea completely and utterly alone. For Crowhurst, its English derring-do on a shoestring as he frantically tries to meet the departure deadline with the world, and a BBC camera crew, following his every move.

Once afloat the tension escalates. Crowhurst flounders yet soldiers on, desperate to make it to the finish line and anxious to avoid the inevitable ridicule and embarrassment that would result from dropping out.

As the months unfold competitor after competitor falls out of the race, leaving Crowhurst in an unforeseen battle with the most experienced seamen in the business. But isolation ever so slowly takes its toll, tweaking the delicate mechanism of his psyche with a silent but deadly strength.

No spoilers here; as I was not familiar with Crowhurst’s perilous journey and its tragic aftermath I won’t reveal the details set adrift in a tangle of turbulent seas and emotions.

The Golden Globe was raced in a more innocent era: pre-computers, GPS systems and cell phones. Contact was minimal, navigation and logbooks kept the old-fashioned way. Both Crowhurst and fellow sailor Bernard Moitessier took 16mm cameras and tape recorders on their journeys; images of the open sea’s grandeur are both exhilarating and immensely frightening.

“Water” speaks volumes about human nature and the bottomless depth of a wanderlust that alters both conscious and subliminal thought. The tension is agonizing yet profoundly moving; man against nature at its most evocative.