The saga of Donald Crowhurst, famously known for its sad and bizarre elements, ended in his mysterious disappearance and presumed death at sea. Now actor Colin Firth is set to star in a dramatic film on Crowhurst, directed by The Theory of Everything's James Marsh.
In 1968 Crowhurst was participating in the London Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first solo, non-stop around the world sail race. Crowhurst left aboard his trimaran, Teignmouth Electron with neither the boat fully ready nor with much experience in ocean sailing. Pressed by time and unable to admit to his wife and family or himself that he should withdraw, Crowhurst departed on the race, but was soon in over his head. He suspected that his boat and its gear would not survive the Southern Ocean, so he concocted a plan to sail circles in the South Atlantic and report fake positions via radio as if still competing. He planed to rejoin the fleet and sail triumphantly back to the finish in the U.K. The stress of creating a fake logbook, with the required celestial navigation sights, plus gear failures proved too much for Crowhurst. His log book documents his steady mental decline and his presumed suicide by stepping off the stern of Teignmouth Electron into the waters of the South Atlantic.
Crowhurst's story is definitively told by two British journalists, Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall, in a superb 2003 nonfiction book, The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst. A 2006 documentary film titled Deep Water is also must see for anyone interested in Crowhurst's tragic fate.