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Donald Crowhurst


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#1 willk

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 01:53 AM

In tonights PBS broadcast about Donald Crowhurst, the commentator describes his doubts before the start of his fatal voyage. The commentator states that " he can't quit now, what would he be." My first and only thought; ALIVE

Sometimes it takes real courage to make the right decision.

#2 Force5Sailor

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 02:28 AM

What happened was unforunate, but he should have realised that he was far from ready, and def. didnt have the experience necessary.The sea is never a safe place and as sailors we all have to respect it.

#3 nroose

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 04:48 AM

Somebody told me a few years ago that to be safe sailing in the ocean, you need to have 2 of 3 things:

Luck
Talent
Experience

Crowhurst was a little light on all of those, I reckon.

Also, that race was pretty hard on the psyche of all of those guys. If I remember the book "A Voyage for Madmen", several of the 9 starters committed suicide either during the race or later in life.

On the other hand, unlike many of his contemporaries, he realized that a multihull should be faster and more capable sailing around the marble than a monohull.

#4 Chainsaw

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 08:16 AM

It certainy seemed like he made one bad decision after another, and then just when he started making decisions that would keep him alive, "luck" turns against him and sinks the competitor that would let him off the hook! Son of a bitch. After floating round the Atlantic for so long that would be enough to send anyone over the edge. What utter rotten luck. :( And he mentioned in his diary, before turning for the sargasso sea, that if he was to come back (reincarnated), it would be under his rules, not the gods. He must have been chewing on some serious bitterness and I can totally understand that. Life may not be fair, but hell, talk about rubbing your nose in it.

So remember kids, when you start to think you're bitched, from the start, swallow your pride then and there. It'll be less of a mouthful than if you wait a few months.

Must say, if I had a finacial supporter like Donald did, I wouldn't have bothered going. It's always better to use your own cash for crazy dreams. What kind of low double dipper takes a risk and then transfers all the risk onto the bloke doing the job? Fuckin' cowardly I say. He may not be to blame, but that's where the warning signs started.

A sad sad tale.

#5 T22

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 02:37 PM

I PVR'd it, watched only the first few minutes. Looking forward to seeing it.

#6 Foolish

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 10:51 PM

From the documentary, it looks like a key issue in his mind was the money he'd owe if he quit. It would mean selling the house and bankruptcy/destitution for the whole family if he dropped out, even before leaving the dock. A very hard pill to swallow for any man in 2008, but even harder back in the 60s.

#7 Chris 249

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 12:40 AM

The book "The Strange Voyage of Donald Crowhurst" has a lot more detail about Crowhurst the man, and after reading it I had very little sympathy for him. It seemed that it was his ego that got him into trouble, on the water and off it, and lead him to hurt many people.

The Strange Voyage and the book of A Voyage for Madmen don't show Stanley Best, his backer, as a man who deserves much, if any, criticism apart from the fact that he fell for Crowhurst's BS. His initial agreement was to pay the basic cost of the boat and that Crowhurst would find other sponsors for the rest. That was an agreement that Crowhurst chose to make, so that he could indulge in his fantasy of becoming a hero with a super-fast self-righting tri with onboard computer. Crowhurst, and his blow-hard PR man who must also take a lot of responsibility for the fatal pressure, failed to find that sponsorship so Best kept on handing over cash. Yes, Best did take a second mortgage on the Crowhurst house (a big one he bought from a short-lived period of business success) but everyone reckons that Crowhurst was incredibly persuasive.

Yes, he may have lost his house (in the end, Best gave the cash for the boat's sale to the Crowhurst family so one wonders whether he would have turfed them out if Crowhurst had been more realistic and pulled out alive) but it was a big one and I don't know whether there might have been enough cash left over for a more modest residence - but it was his own ego that lead him into that situation. His bitterness seems to have come from a lot earlier on, when he was brought up as a middle class Brit in India in the days of the Raj, and he seems to have always considered himself so superior that he deserved success.

The more I read about Crowhurst, the less I like the guy. He burned people, from the person whose car he tried to steal, to his employers, the boatbuilders he abused. He stuffed up Tetley, who lost his boat (which was the home for him and his wife) trying to stay ahead of Crowhurst's fantasy positions, and most of all he stuffed up the wife and kids. He put himself in a situation where his family would be on the street if he, an inexperienced sailor in a type of boat he had never sailed, didn't do well in the toughest yacht race ever sailed. Words fail me......

"On the other hand, unlike many of his contemporaries, he realized that a multihull should be faster and more capable sailing around the marble than a monohull."

But in those days, they may not have been. Toria apart, I don't think they'd won a thing and the success rate of multis finishing or finishing well was pretty poor. Many of them had been beaten fair and square over the line by Carter and Stephens RORC rating leadmines, and many had DNF'd.

The death rate was incredible - in about 1967 there was something like 28 deaths aboard tris in Australia and New Zealand waters alone. There were literally whole families going missing; one with a bunch of young women along for the ride as well. Of the top few designers, Crowther had lost his brother (on Bandersnatch) and Nicol (Vagabond) and Piver (on a Nugget?) had both lost their own lives.

I've got a lot of old mags from those days and for all the talk about people being bigoted against multis, there seems to be very little evidence in the press. Yes, some people slagged them off but many cat people slag off monos, and a lot of the multi propaganda was the sort of complete shyte that would put anyone's back up - have you read Piver's fantasies? Reading his book of "Oh, my boats are always the best but I'm always unlucky" stories is a bit of a turn-off.

And yes, there were articles about the dangers of multis of the day, but it is a fact that there were many more deaths aboard multis (certainly as a % of their total numbers, probably as an absolute) than on keelers in those days. As a comparison, I'd actually guess that there have been more articles about fin keels dropping off in the current mags than there were about "dangerous multis" despite the fact that the % of multis killing people then was much higher than the % of monos killing people now.

I seem to recall that Piver proposed that his 35 foot cruiser could surf around the world in a time better than the G Class multis do today. Faced with that sort of fantasy, the sailing media had a duty to alert people to the downside. It may be better if they still did that today when people pump out one-sided views.

#8 greasy al

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 01:14 AM

In his own way, Crowhurst had quite an impact on yachting. Without his lunatic effect on that race it is entirely possible that Nigel Tetley may have nursed his multihull home and won.

What would the effect have been of a mutihull winning in terms of sales of boats, people being attracted to the class etc? What would the effect on British yachting have been if RKJ had not won? Would there have been the global challenges and all of the ventures he later got into?

It is a fantastic sea story, but you can't come away with much respect for Crowhurst; "the harder you work, the luckier you get" also applies inversely to bad luck

#9 Rawhide

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 01:27 AM

Interesting entry on Arthur Piver from Wikipedia, as a kid my father had a Hedley Nichol tri and I grew up on Paver's books, his stories of racing bear out my recollections of our tri, in that they were fast at certain times but around a course or across the various conditions you could expect in a circumnavigation, a fast mono of the time would probably win.

Arthur Piver (1910-1968) was a World War II pilot, an amateur sailor, printshop owner and legendary boatbuilder who lived in Sausalito on San Francisco Bay and became "the father of the modern trimaran."

In the late 1950s and 1960s he designed and built a series of simple three-hulled, plywood yachts starting with a 16 footer and culminating in a 64-footer that was built in England for charter in the Caribbean. (The word "trimaran" was coined by Viktor Tchetchet, a Ukrainian emmigrant to the US who tested his boats on Long Island sound in the late 1940s.) Piver crossed the Atlantic on his first ocean-going boat, the demountable 30' Nimble, departing from Swansee, Mass, stopping in the Azores, and successfully reaching Plymouth, England. He then began selling do-it-yourself plans. He thought anyone could build one of his boats even if they had no experience.

In 1962, Piver built himself a 35-foot ketch-rigged tri named Lodestar and sailed it around the Pacific Ocean via New Zealand. In England, Cox Marine, started building his boats and found a ready market, often with Americans who would sail them home. In 1964, Derek Kelsall bought a Lodestar bare hull, completed it with a flush deck, and entered the Observer Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race. After ten days, he was ahead of Eric Tabarly when he struck some flotsam and broke his daggerboartd and rudder. He returned to England for replacements, re-started and still finished in a respectable time.

These voyages proved the seaworthiness of the trimaran concept and in a very short time, Piver designs became incredibly popular and inspired many novices to believe they could build their own boats and set off for the tropics. Thus Arthur Piver could be said to be the man most responsible for popularizing the nautical phenomenon of the cruising multihull.

However, it wasn't long before other designers began developing trimaran design. By the mid-60s, these included one of his young fans, Jim Brown with the Searunner series that are still sailing today, Jay Kantola in southern California with his stylish streamlined tris, and Derek Kelsall in England, the first designer to use foam and fiberglass "sandwich" construction and win a long-distance race with his prototype the 42' Toria.

Some versions of Piver boats left much to be desired, because backyard boatbuilders lacked the necessary skills or altered the original plans. However, he was driven to maintain his position as the world's top designer. He responded with the AA "Advanced Amateur" range with a sleek, fast profile using fiberglass over marine plywood and using double chines to improve his boats' underwater shape. Plans for the Pi series and custom designs were available for lease only. He sailed his next boat across the Atlantic to compete with the growing fleet of multihulls that was based on the south coast of England.

His new 33' boat Stiletto was no match for the sleek molded fiberglass cats from Prout and Sailcraft and Kelsall's sandwich tris. To redeem himself, he announced that he would enter the next Observer Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR) in 1968. (He had failed to make the start in 1960.) Having no time left for a solo qualification passage, he left his boat in England over the winter of 1967, and returned home. To qualify for the OSTAR, he still had to complete a 500-mile solo voyage, which he elected to do from San Francisco rather than in the spring in England. He borrowed a 25' tri from one of his homebuilders, set out, and was never seen again.

The next year, 1969, the Golden Globe solo non-stop round-the-world race was announced and two of the entrants set off in 40-foot Piver Victress trimarans. Nigel Tetley was sailing a full-cabin version, Donald Crowhurst was in a Cox Marine flush-decker similar to Kelsall's 35' "Folatre." Both these voyages ended disastrously and their failures marked the end of attempts to race Piver tris across oceans. Nonetheless, examples of his boxy cruising designs remain in use to this day. They could never sail well upwind but were very stable; many did carry their owners to the tropics and allowed them to fulfill their cruising dreams.

Actually they did a lot more than that. Many properly built Piver tris made grueling voyages. Quen Cultra, of landlocked Illinois, built a Lodestar on his backyard farm and sailed it around the world with no prior sailing experience. He survived massive storms and even being hit by a ship. He wrote a book about the voyage titled Queequeg's Odyssey.

A well built Piver while not as "modern" as new tris will still hold their own and are quite suitable for cruising, especially when modified with a Norm Cross design "keel."

People who met Piver say he was a social man who enjoyed being the center of attention in his circle of boating friends, and felt that the trimaran was his own personal invention. He was not the "singlehander" type---he never wrote about singlehanding or claimed to have made any solo passages. He was driven to enter the Trans-Atlantic solo race because it was the only prestigious long-distance race in the world open to every type of boat.

In his brochure he explained how to pronounce his name: "Piver rhymes with diver." His collected papers are preserved at the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, VA.

#10 Chris 249

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 04:37 AM

BTW I've got to retract what I wrote about multis never having won much in '68; the CSK cats had been winning for a while.

My brother had a Nugget; cool little boat. I also remember that when I was a kid there was a souped-up Piver Lodestar in Queensland that used to do well racing; it could be fun to see how one would go with low-drag modern sails and decent foils.

#11 willk

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 03:45 AM

I really don't think this is a multi-hull, mono hull issue. The real issue was Crowhuurst. All factors considered, I don't think Crowhurst could have finished if he was driving an Aircraft Carrier. The man just was not competent to challenge the open ocean. That he survived as long as he did is a testament to GOD looking after Fools and Children.

#12 Force5Sailor

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 05:35 PM

Somebody told me a few years ago that to be safe sailing in the ocean, you need to have 2 of 3 things:

Luck
Talent
Experience

Crowhurst was a little light on all of those, I reckon.

Also, that race was pretty hard on the psyche of all of those guys. If I remember the book "A Voyage for Madmen", several of the 9 starters committed suicide either during the race or later in life.

On the other hand, unlike many of his contemporaries, he realized that a multihull should be faster and more capable sailing around the marble than a monohull.




this is true i read the same book.the only one who kept going was bernard mortessier...props to him

#13 Carbontech

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 08:21 PM

Somebody told me a few years ago that to be safe sailing in the ocean, you need to have 2 of 3 things:

Luck
Talent
Experience

Crowhurst was a little light on all of those, I reckon.

Also, that race was pretty hard on the psyche of all of those guys. If I remember the book "A Voyage for Madmen", several of the 9 starters committed suicide either during the race or later in life.

On the other hand, unlike many of his contemporaries, he realized that a multihull should be faster and more capable sailing around the marble than a monohull.



You need all three - but an absence of one requires an abundance of the other two!

#14 Akaron

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 07:10 PM

this is true i read the same book.the only one who kept going was bernard mortessier...props to him


The two participants in this race who actually went 'round the world continue to have a huge influence in sailing today. Mointessier is a hero who continues to inspire francophone solo sailors. I often have my doubts about what the french solo scene would look like if it weren't for his increadible ability to pass on his passion for the sea in his writings. If you haven't read "La Longue Route" (or its english equivalent) I would suggest you do. I blame him for my first distance sailing and contuing addiction. Of course, we all know also what RKJ continues to do for sailing with the Clipper race, his 60 and his support for young sailors.

#15 HHN92

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Posted 05 July 2008 - 03:10 PM

Read the book years ago and have bought the dvd.

Crowhurst had many issues going with his business and financial problems. He decided the fantasy of winning the race would solve all of his problems and make him a national hero as Chichester had become.

Like anything the tri's of that era were apparently going thru the teething problems any new technology goes thru. You did not have the computer runs to make to test the structure of the boats so it was all pretty much seat of the pants. Several multi's were successful in the OSTAR's, racing against the bigger and bigger mono's that kept popping up. Pen Duick IV comes to mind from that era.

Crowhurst bet the bank on his venture and unfortunately lost. Speaking of helping the family, RKJ gave his winnings to the family also.

#16 Knotcho

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Posted 09 January 2014 - 11:47 PM

I just watched Deep Water. I'm not sure how I feel about Crowhurst. From what I understand, he embarked on this voyage lacking the funds, a common problem for a lot of people wanting to do great things, and right off the bat not taking into account his lack of skill and seamanship he dug his own grave. Unfortunately, he had a goal and did what he thought was taking proper steps to achieve that goal. 

 

I'm trying to find his last entry in his Log. I would really like to read it. If anyone knows a link or something i would appreciate it. 

 

Thanks. 



#17 Salted

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Posted 09 January 2014 - 11:58 PM

I think one of the issues was that he got caught up in all the hype and got too far along before he realised he couldn't do it, and then was too afraid of backing down and thought he'd be viewed as a failure.  Clearly a lot of it was in his head but in that state perception is reality.

 

Check out the book 'The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst', that has his last entries in it.  Great book which is almost as much psychology as it is sailing.  I think the final quote is "This is the end, this is the end, this is the end".



#18 MSafiri

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 08:49 PM

Tetley crossed his outward route before his yacht went down. In theory, he was the 1st to circumnavigate the world with a multihull. Wanted to build a larger tri, he actually did it, but had no money left to fit out. His troubles caught up with him and he hanged himself. Blyth gave up at Cape Town, then become the 1st to go around the world the wrong way around. Bill King completed his voyage years later....The history of Moitessier is a facinating one, he was a damned good sailor, writer, his books are great.

 

Crowhurst boat is still around. It is somewhere on the Cayman Brac, well, what left of it. Been destroyed by hurricanes. Check out the coordinates in Google Earth: 19°41'10.40"N by 79°52'37.83"W

 

http://www.photo-hh....h_Electron.html

 

Check out this one as well:

 

http://dystoniagirlb...-electron-home/

 

Read the Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst, then get a good vine, and watch the Deep Water, it is a great story.

 

Cheers,

 

MSafiri



#19 greasy al

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 11:11 AM

I just watched Deep Water. I'm not sure how I feel about Crowhurst. From what I understand, he embarked on this voyage lacking the funds, a common problem for a lot of people wanting to do great things, and right off the bat not taking into account his lack of skill and seamanship he dug his own grave. Unfortunately, he had a goal and did what he thought was taking proper steps to achieve that goal. 
 
I'm trying to find his last entry in his Log. I would really like to read it. If anyone knows a link or something i would appreciate it. 
 
Thanks. 


I believe that the actual last line in his log was "it is the mercy". Coming at the end of many pages of nonsensical ranting.

As noted above, "The strange last voyage..." And "Voyage for Madmen" sets it out pretty well.

Did RKJ ever actually meet Crowhurst, and if so has he ever spoken publicly about his impressions?

#20 Presuming Ed

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 01:06 PM

RKJ gave his golden globe prizemoney - £5,000 - (£70,000 when inflation adjusted to 2014) to Donald Crowhurst's widow and children, and also helped Nigel Tetley's wife, Eve, after his death. 

 

http://www.yachtingm...he-golden-globe

 

Shining through the pages rides Sir Robin Knox-Johnston a hero in every sense of the word. He gave his prize money to the Crowhursts, allowed Eve to live in his Hamble boatyard at cost, and helped move her to Alderney in the boat she and Nigel never finished.



#21 Salted

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 11:06 PM

greasy al, I think you're right "it is the mercy" was his last entry, 'it is the end' was a few entries (days/hours) prior.

 

RKJ - a fine sailor and great bloke all round, hence the avatar ;)



#22 Life Buoy 15

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Posted 16 January 2014 - 05:42 AM

Brave, brave Sir Robin.

#23 Groucho Marx

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Posted 16 January 2014 - 11:23 AM

Crowhurst was under great pressure before and after he left; time and rushed preparedness being the main ones - but  this is quite common to many competitors. His Piver had been built well and was sound, checked over by Derek Kelsall and Crowhurst was depending on high offwind performance to do well in the race ...except that a centre or daggerboard had not been fitted to either main or float hulls of Teignmouth Electron, don't think it even had the stumpy (and near useless) Piver float wings even - and the boat would have made horrible leeway while beating. In the book, Crowhurst complained bitterly about lack of windward ability  ... and maybe, that miserable performance was what triggered his slide into insanity. Once he started goofing off and sending phony messages home, there was no going back. Horrible hole he dug for himself.



#24 Southern Cross

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Posted 16 January 2014 - 04:03 PM

Still there ...

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#25 Southern Cross

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Posted 16 January 2014 - 04:12 PM

Like the race to the South Pole, first to summit Everest, this race was extraordinary and attracted exceptional men to it. Legend and lore now. Of, course they were also eccentric and half nuts.

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