Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Mercy of the Golden Globe Race

With the advent of the resurrection of the Golden Globe Race in 2018 comes the release of the movie called The Mercy, telling the extraordinary tale of Donald Crowhurst's bid for fame and fortune in the first Golden Globe single-handed non-stop, around-the-world race. Starring Colin Firth and Rachelle Weisz, it's a disturbing journey through the deteriorating state of mind of a man who set out to win everything and realizes he is about to lose everything instead.

The reviews have been mixed but for sailors, especially those old enough to have followed the original story or read the subsequent excellent account in Voyage for Madmen, it's a must see. Setting off on a boat he built himself to promote his business, the Teignmouth Electron, Crowhurst realizes that the trimaran of his design is not up to the task from the very start. Yet having wagered everything, including his house and his business, he cannot quit. He must keep going.

The boat leaks and he uses a bucket to empty the pontoons. He survives a storm under bare poles. When he understands that his boat will not survive the pounding in the high latitudes, he concocts a means of reporting his position by plotting a course he imagines would put him in the lead. And with this, the media create a sensation around his story. He cracks in the horse latitudes when he makes no progress. He realizes he won't stand up to the scrutiny if he does come in first, so he slows himself down to come in last. Except that everyone else fails to finish, with the exception of young Robin Knox-Johnston, the only sailor to cross the finish line. Moitessier decides he doesn't want the fame and keeps going even though he is in the lead. Everyone else withdraws from the race.

Unable to deal with the fallout, Crowhurst breaks, and decides to seek 'the Mercy'. His boat is found adrift with no one on board, leaving behind a great mystery and infamy.

I thought The Mercy was very well acted and would not be surprised if there were several Oscar nominations. Despite being a story of 7+ months of drifting around the Atlantic, it was face paced and the end came sooner than expected. I'd forgotten that Ocean Cruising Club Honorary Member Knox-Johnston donated his winnings to Crowhurst's widow and children. The scenes of him crossing the finish line is actual footage from the real race.

To sailors in general, it won't be a joyful experience. To racers, it may reveal some of the inner struggles that propel them to the start line and across the finish.

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