Directors Do Justice to Hair-Raising True Story

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HHH DEEP WATER. Directed by Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell, with Jean Badin, Clare Crowhurst, Donald Crowhurst, Simon Crowhurst, Santiago Franchessie, Ted Hynds, Donald Kerr and Tilda Swinton. KENNETH TURAN reviews

DISTURBING, unnerving and wire-to-wire involving, Deep Water is the story of a dream that got so wildly out of hand that it ensnared the dreamer in an intricate trap of his own devising.

As directed by Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell (and produced by the man who brought you Touching the Void), this gripping British documentary joins a tale of hair-raising adventure with issues of life, death and morality presented in the starkest terms.

If you want to know why documentaries are increasingly capturing audiences' imaginations, this is a good place to start.

Deep Water starts in 1967, when a man named Francis Chichester electrifies Bri-tain by sailing alone around the world, taking nine months to go more than 53 000km, punctuated only by a stop in Australia for refitting.

Looking for the next challenge, the Sunday Times newspaper sponsors what is billed as the greatest endurance test of all time, a single-handed sail around the world with no stops allowed. Though no one knew if either the physical boat or the human psyche could survive such a journey, a pair of prizes were set: a Golden Globe to the first boat home and [pounds sterling]5 000 to the boat with the fastest time.

Most of the 10 men who announce they will leave by the October 31, 1968, deadline are top of the line, including Robin Knox-Johnson of Britain and France's premier sailor, Bernard Moitessier.

And then there is Donald Crowhurst, an amateur yachtsman and father of four, owner of a floundering marine electronics business who yearned for bigger things. …