Bridgwater, England, 1968
To turn the tide of his fortune, destiny offered him a solution: the Golden Globe Race, a non-stop race around the world with a sizeable money prize for the winner.
Crowhurst lied about his achievements, hired Rodney Hallworth, a criminologist from the Daily Express, as his communication officer and obtained the sponsors necessary to build his racing boat and enter the race. On 31 October 1968, with just a few weeks of experience on board his new boat, the trimaran Teignmouth Electron, Donald Crowhurst entered the race.
Crowhurst regatta started badly. Due to technical problems with the boat, general inexperience in manoeuvring a hull not yet tested on the high seas and lack of nautical skills with respect to the other sailors - some of them destined to become sailing legends, such as Bernard Moitessier - the distance between Crowhurst and the other participants widened immediately. Crowhurst lacked both the equipment and the experience to succeed in that feat.
A complex undertaking even to this day, let alone with the boats and navigation technologies of more than half a century ago.
Between November and December 1968, Crowhurst came to the realisation that he would have never won. He was down to only two options: he could admit defeat a few weeks before departure, declare bankruptcy and let his family live in poverty; or he could continue a desperate race, with very little chance of survival and on board of a boat clearly not suitable for sea crossing and in need of immediate repairs. Yet, he could have not or would have not admitted defeat, either to himself or to the world that was waiting for him.
Crowhurst chose a third way. He decided to lie to everyone. Even to himself.
In full disregard of the rules, Crowhurst pulled his boat ashore in South America to make the necessary repairs, before keeping an aimless wander across the Southern Atlantic Ocean.
Liars are said to have a good memory, and Crowhurst was no exception. In the midst of his delirium, he went full circle: he started to keep a second, real logbook.
The reality was far from it: Tetley was in fact well ahead, approaching on one occasion Crowhurst’s hideout while sailing close to South America. Nevertheless, the South African sailor, feeling the pressure of the competition, pushed his trimaran to the limit, reaching the point of irreparably damaging it and having to forfeit on May 30, 1969.
Upon hearing the news, Crowhurst must have understood that even in the event of completion of the race, his lies, meticulously noted in the fake logbook, would have come easily to the surface.
On 29 June, after a failed attempt to contact his wife, he turned off the radio signal once again. In his diary, he began to pen down his thoughts on human nature, the last-ditch attempt to justify himself from his misconduct. He concluded by writing: " It has been a good game that must be ended at the […] I will play this game when I choose I will resign the game […] There is no reason for harmful. It is finished — it is finished IT IS THE MERCY ". The day was July 1, 1969. The clock on board marked 11:20 AM.