A Seafaring Tragedy That Floated My Boat
Brian Viner bviner@independentcouk, The Independent (London, England)
Last Night's TV
DEEP WATER CHANNEL 4 Interview INTERVIEW WITH A CANNIBAL FIVE
A refrain I hear over and over again is that there is nothing on the telly worth watching. Even with all those digital channels, zilch. Yet last night, on Channel 4 and Five, a pair of programmes told the true stories of a man who cheated in a round-the-world boat race, lost his mind and ended up throwing himself overboard in the Sargasso Sea; and a man who chopped off another man's penis, then ate it, then ate the rest of him, for the sexual gratification of them both. What more do people want?
I'll start with the boat trip just in case you're eating your breakfast, or even worse, about to have a hot-dog for lunch. It's a cheap gag, I know, but if you don't laugh at sexually motivated cannibalism, then what's left? The other story was told in a truly gripping documentary called Deep Water, a neat double entendre, since 35-year-old Donald Crowhurst was out of his depth pretty much from the moment he entered the first solo, non-stop, round-the- world boat race in 1968.
Crowhurst was a weekend sailor whose marine electronics business was struggling. Inspired like many other British sailors by Francis Chichester's round-the-world voyage with only a single stop the year before, Crowhurst became fixated with the idea of going one better. Apart from anything else, it would be great for business. However, if he withdrew before the race or too soon after the start, his sponsor, Stanley Best, made it clear that he wanted his money back, which Crowhurst knew would bankrupt him.
So he set sail, aware that he had nether the sailing skills nor the boat to get round the world, or even round Cape Horn. I say"even"as though it's a doddle. Crowhurst did get from Teignmouth to somewhere off the coast of Brazil, which puts into perspective my own sailing endeavours - a circumnavigation of the Marine Lake in Southport ona motor boat. But Crowhurst knew that he would never survive the punishing southern ocean, so he stopped all radio communication, which would have pinpointed his position, and waited in the South Atlantic for the others, led by Robin Knox-Johnston, to reach the final northbound leg of the race. At this point his plan was to tuck in behind them and, having doctored his logbook, sail back to England a hero.
I used to do something strikingly similar myself in compulsory school cross-country races, loitering behind an electricity substation waiting to join the field again somewhere plausibly near the back, so I have a …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: A Seafaring Tragedy That Floated My Boat. Contributors: Brian Viner bviner@independentcouk - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: November 6, 2007. Page number: 22. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.