bookcover of the stange last voage of Donald Crowhurst
The book cover.

During the autumn holiday, I read the most amazing book. It is called ‘The strange last voyage of Donald Crowhurst’ written by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall. It’s a sailing story about a man who enters the ‘Golden Globe Race’ around the world yacht race in 1968, but things did not go according to plan. If there is a story that deserves a movie, it is this one!!! 

I think of a movie with Colin Firth as Donald Crowhurst on a sailing boat. His dark hair, brooding dark eyes. White knitted turtleneck sweater, well cut but sensible trousers and yellow wellies, staring in the distance towards a magnificent sunset…..

Little did I know that there were actually two movies about this incredible story out in the cinema in this very year. And with Colin Firth as Donald…

But let’s get back to the book.

So what makes this book such a good read? There is no sex, no violence, no romance in this book. It’s the psychological drama in this true story that makes it such a page turner! 

What really fascinates me is how far someone is willing to go to find fame, admiration, recognition, and appreciation from other people, from the whole entire world, as a matter of fact.

On an epic adventure as a sailing competition around the world, every personal weakness in character shows up. Especially when placed in a stressful situation as being alone on a small multihull sailing boat while attempting to sail around the world in the fastest time ever. When you mortgage your house and have other people invest money in your sailing adventure. Add to this equation the realisation that the boat is probably not sturdy enough to circumnavigate the world and the decision to fake the logbooks. Staying in the Atlantic ocean the entire time and letting the world believe you are really the fastest sailor of the competition. I think that is quite enough stress to go completely bonkers, and that is exactly what happens. Imagination, religion, Einstein and reality become a catastrophic mix up of the mind.

lonely sailboat
A lonely sailing boat at sea.

Really, Donald Crowhurst must have had some serious low self-esteem issues to go this far.

And in a way, I can understand him and follow his way of reasoning.

How can I understand him? Well, as a teacher I see a lot of adolescent boys and girls in my classroom. I see how difficult it is to grow up to be a well-balanced human. Childhood is a very precious time in life, unexpected changes and traumatic events have a tremendous impact on the development of a child’s wellbeing and will trouble him/her for the rest of life. In Donald’s case moving from India to England. A big change from having servants and private teachers to living in a semi-detached house and going to a public school like everyone else. Not long after the move, his father died which results in the loss of income for the family. For Donald, this means he won’t go to university but to a vocational-technical college and having to find a job to support the family. A heavy blow to the young man’s big ego. 

I know the ocean can be a lonely place especially for a solo sailor embarking on a trip around the world. You have to like your own company. And living with yourself together with a lie weighs heavy on the mind. Not having a physical person around to talk about what is going on in your head must be difficult. All thoughts go round and round in circles in your head because of the lack of feedback.

Small sailing boat in a big landscape.

But to admit before the start of the race, that your ship is not really up to scratch and that it is wise not to go. Allowing more time for more preparation and being ready for the next race takes a bigger man than Donald could ever be. By not taking this difficult and potentially degrading decision the entire voyage went from bad to worst, from pretty crap to bloody horrible. In the end, Knox-Johnston won the race. Donald might have survived the competition if Tetley won the fastest time. But he wrecked his ship, and unfortunately, Donald would win the fastest time. The logbooks would have to be checked and the lie would come to light….

Did this review make you curious? Do you want to know the whole story? You can read the excerpt in the following blog post. You can order this amazing book on Amazon or you can watch the movie. But I must say the movie is not as good as the book… even when Colin Firth is playing the lead role….

Charlotte Gannet

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