The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst (Sailor's Classics Series)

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"A masterpiece."--The New Yorker

In the autumn of 1968, Donald Crowhurst set out from England in an improbable-looking plywood trimaran to compete in the first singlehanded nonstop round-the-world sailboat race. Although his previous sailing experience was limited, his boat unready, and the electronic gadgetry of his own design unfinished and untested, Crowhurst had managed to persuade first an affluent backer, then the contest judges, and, finally, England's media to regard him...

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"A masterpiece."--The New Yorker

In the autumn of 1968, Donald Crowhurst set out from England in an improbable-looking plywood trimaran to compete in the first singlehanded nonstop round-the-world sailboat race. Although his previous sailing experience was limited, his boat unready, and the electronic gadgetry of his own design unfinished and untested, Crowhurst had managed to persuade first an affluent backer, then the contest judges, and, finally, England's media to regard him as a serious contender. Sailing south through the Atlantic, he radioed reports of record-breaking sailing performances. In the South Atlantic he announced that low battery power would require him to maintain radio silence through the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Eleven weeks later he broke his silence to tell the world he had rounded Cape Horn and was sailing north for England, the elapsed-time leader of the race. Then tragedy struck. Eight months after his departure, Crowhurst's Teignmouth Electron was discovered adrift in an eerie mid-Atlantic calm, intact but without her skipper.

In this tour de force of investigative journalism, Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall tell the story of Donald Crowhurst's ill-fated voyage. Working from Crowhurst's recovered logs and diaries, the authors reconstruct the events leading up to his disappearance: his first few weeks at sea and his growing distrust of his boat; his attempts to come to grips with imminent failure; his decision to hide out midocean in the South Atlantic, away from the shipping lanes, faking a round-the-world journey; and his final, desperate escape from discovery as the would-be perpetrator of one of the biggest hoaxes in sailing history.

From in-depth interviews with Crowhurst's family and friends and telling excerpts from his logbooks, Tomalin and Hall develop a tale of tragic self-delusion and public deception, a haunting portrait of a complex, deeply troubled man and his journey into the heart of darkness.

With its first publication in 1970, The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst became an instant classic. Sir Francis Chichester, whose record-setting 1967 circumnavigation inspired the 1968 - 69 round-the-world race, called it "the sea drama of the century." Robin Knox-Johnston, the winner of the race, has called it "one of the great classic sea stories." You won't be able to put it down, and you won't be able to forget it.

A Daring Hoax and the Man It Destroyed

July 1969. After a voyage of 240 days, Donald Crowhurst was less than two weeks from a triumphant return to England, the apparent victor in the first nonstop singlehanded around-the-world sailboat race. All England was preparing for his arrival. But then he disappeared. His boat was found, sailing sedately, undisturbed--but he was not on it. From the logbooks he left behind, Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall reconstructed this extraordinary, deeply unsettling tale. . . .

"A virtuoso demonstration of the soul's anatomy."--New York Times Book Review

"One of the most moving and disturbing books I have ever read. I don't think I shall ever forget it."--Washington Post

"An analysis of a true anti-hero and a record of human aspiration and human failing rare in the annals of maritime lore."--San Francisco Chronicle

In the fall of 1968, Donald Crowhurst set out from England in his untested trimaran, a competitor in the first single-handed nonstop around-the-world sailboat race. Eight months later, the boat was found in mid-Atlantic with no one on board. This journalistic masterpiece reconstructs what really happened and provides details on one of the greatest hoaxes of our time. 48 illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Tomalin's reconstruction of Crowhuurst's life & death, now a classic of the sea, is reprinted here under McGraw's International Marine imprint. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780071414296
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/30/2003
  • Series: Sailor's Classics Series
  • Edition description: Sailor's Classic Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 584,165
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Tomalin was literary editor for the New Stateman and a featured columnist for the Daily Express, the Sunday Times, and the Evening Standard of London. He was nominated Reporter of the Year for his coverage of the war in Vietnam.

Ron Hall is a leading British journalist. He was cofounder of the Sunday Times' (London) "Insight," where he was editor from 1964 - 66, and he became joint managing editor of the Sunday Times in 1969.

Jonathan Raban is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the editor of The Oxford Book of the Sea, and author of ten critically acclaimed books, including Passage to Juneau. He is the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Heinemann Award for Literature, and received the New York Times Editors' Choice for Book of the Year for Old Glory and Bad Land. He has been called (by The Guardian) "the finest writer afloat since Conrad."

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Table of Contents

Introduction by Jonathan Raban

Authors' Preface


One. The Bravest Boy of Them All

Two. The Great Race

Three. The Revolutionary Boat

Four. The Maiden Voyage

Five. Teignmouth

Six. The Last Letter

Seven. The First Two Weeks at Sea

Eight. Two Conflicting Testimonies

Nine. The Fraudulent Record

Ten. The Plan

Eleven. Christmas

Twelve. Silence and Loneliness

Thirteen. The Secret Landing

Fourteen. "Heading Digger Ramrez"

Fifteen. Midnight Oil

Sixteen. Win or Lose?

Seventeen. The Inescapable Triumph

Eighteen. Into the Dark Tunnel

Nineteen. The Cosmic Mind

Twenty. The Great Beauty of Truth

Epilogue. And the World Said . . .

Appendix 1. Donald Crowhurst's Navigation

Appendix 2. The Design of Teignmouth Electron

Appendix 3. Teignmouth Electron by Richard C. Newick

Afterword by Robin Knox-Johnston
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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted September 28, 2012

    Great Read

    This work is a fairly thorough, almost complete, analysis of the a wildly interesting story of a courageous endeavor that fell to human frailty. Donald Crowhurst saw a way out of financial difficulty and a way into celebrity, but prepared with haste, incompletely. With good intent, but a fair amount of trepidation, he embarked on one of the most challenging sea voyages imaginable - sindlehanding a small sailboat all the way around the earth without stopping - or receiving any assistance at all. Not many days into the voyage, he realized he could not complete it and set about to perpetrate one of the greatest hoaxes of all time. He failed in the hoax but succeeded in leaving us with a sailing mystery that rivals the Mary Deare.

    Couldn't put it down.

    One thing that this reader believes is that the hazards of lead solder should have been investigated by the competent authors, Tomlin and Hall. Soldering in the confined space of a small vessel is dangerous due to lead oxide fumes. Exposure to such fumes can result in lead poisoning - loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, constipation, headache, abdominal cramps, nervousness, and insomnia are symptoms. Is it possible that the hours of soldering required to repair and alter his transmitters could have caused many of the symptoms above, and even the dementia that was clearly present in his last log entries? We may never know, but a complete investigation should include this possibility, in this reader's humble opinion.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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