Fast Facts: “The Mercy”

ENGLAND — The voyage that never happened is now the subject of a film recently released in England. Director James Marsh helmed “The Mercy,” a biopic drama starring Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz. Firth stars as Donald Crowhurst, an amateur sailor who claimed he circumnavigated the globe on his sailboat – but in reality never left the Atlantic Ocean.

Crowhurst entered a single-handed around-the-world race, sponsored by The Sunday Times of London, in 1968. His custom designed boat didn’t last long, but Crowhurst didn’t reveal this to the world. Instead he radioed to London of his progress. It was soon revealed Crowhurst remained in the Atlantic and lied about his voyage. The sailor never made it back to shore, either, as Crowhurst’s ill-fated navigation claimed his life.

A 2006 documentary (“Deep Water”) on Crowhurst’s failed journey pictured the sailor as in debt and needing to complete the sailing quest to make good on the monies he owed.

The sailor was in his late 30s when he died. He was born, near Delhi, India, in 1932 to a railway superintendent and schoolteacher. The first few years of his life were spent just outside the Indian capitol city. At 10 his family moved to a city in what is now Western Pakistan. The Crowhursts eventually returned to England in the late 1940s, shortly after India gained independence.

The next 20 years weren’t kind to Crowhurst. His father passed away while he was young and his mother spent years living in hospitals or nursing homes.

Crowhurst, himself, met his fateful end aboard his trimaran. No one quite knows how he passed away. He presumably drowned, though it is unclear whether Crowhurst met the end of his life accidentally or intentionally.

Marsh’s film, which recounts Crowhurst’s attempted sail-around-the-world, opened in U.K. theaters on Feb. 9 and is being released in other countries.


Sources: New York Times, “The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst,”

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