Deep Water

The fateful voyage of an amateur yachtsman was the most daring nautical challenge ever — the first solo, non-stop, round-the-world boat race.

Film Signature Image
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
June 15, 2008
90 minutes
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2006 Rome Film Fest-Best Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2007 San Diego Film Critics Society Awards-Best Documentary
  • Producer/Director

    Louise Osmond

    Louise Osmond studied modern history at Oxford and joined ITN’s editorial trainee program when she graduated. She worked in the Europe Bureau covering events in Brussels, Paris, and Rome and as a foreign desk editor in London before becoming a documentary director. Her recent work includes three feature-length documentaries: Blitz: London’s Firestorm, Show more short listed for the 2006 Grierson Award for Best Historical Documentary; The Search for the Northwest Passage, for Channel 4/PBS; and Looking for Victoria, for BBC1. Other recent credits include Why We Went to War, The Real Hughie Green, Timewatch: Death of the Battleship and To the Ends of the Earth: Hell on High Water. Osmond also co-founded the production company World’s End Pictures. Show less


    Jerry Rothwell

    Jerry Rothwell is a documentary filmmaker whose work includes the award-winning feature docs, Heavy Load, about a group of people with learning disabilities who form a punk band, Donor Unknown about a sperm donor and his many offspring and Deep Water, co-directed with Louise Osmond, about Donald Crowhurst’s ill-fated voyage in the 1968 round the world Show more yacht race. His past credits include The Late George Shaw, for Channel 4’s Art Show series, the Modern Painters series of short films for Channel 4 and TV and radio programmes for BBC, Carlton, Channel 4, Teachers TV, and the Arts Council. Another strand of Jerry's work has been participatory production, working with people to tell their own stories on film. He played in lead role in developing Hi8us Projects improvised dramas with young people for Channel 4, in establishing First Light, the UK Film Council's scheme for young filmmakers, and in setting up digital storytelling exchanges between marginalised communities across Europe. His latest film is Town of Runners, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival. Show less

    We fund untold stories for public media.

    Learn more about funding opportunities with ITVS.

    The Film

    In 1968, The Sunday Times of London announced the first solo, non-stop, around-the-world sailing race. A prize of £5,000 was offered for the fastest voyage. Competitors were required to set sail before October 31 to avoid the fury of a winter at sea.

    Deep Water follows Donald Crowhurst, a 36-year-old father of four and owner of an ailing marine electronics business, as he attempted to win the fastest voyage prize. With funding from a local businessman, Crowhurst bought a trimaran — the newest and quickest boat available at the time — on the condition that if he lost the race, he’d have to buy the boat back, a purchase that would propel him into bankruptcy. Naming his boat the Teignmouth Electron, Crowhurst set sail on the October 31 deadline, unable to complete the innovative designs he had planned.

    After a slow start, Crowhurst began to radio a series of increasingly record-breaking daily distances to his delighted press agent in England, who embellished the mileages before relaying them to the public. Crowhurst’s family was thrilled by his sudden progress. But in reality he was slipping further and further behind his stated position. In his leaking boat, he began a second logbook with a list of elaborately calculated false positions on spare sheets. At that point he was weeks away from where the rest of the world thought he was.

    Nine months later, the race was down to two competitors. When Crowhurst was deemed the certain winner, he began to panic, knowing that if he returned to England, his fraudulent journey would be exposed.

    Deep Water uses Donald Crowhurst’s original 16mm films and tape recordings to re-construct his extraordinary journey. Through re-enactments and interviews with family and friends, the film reveals his maritime inexperience and the eventual ending that shocked a nation.