With July being the month that two of the most prestigious fresh water yacht races are held — the Chicago-Mac Race and the Port Huron-Mac race — this is as good a time as any to check out a great sailing movie.
Whether it’s the thrill of competition against other boats or the ordeal of human against nature, sailing films provide plenty of thrilling action and nail-biting suspense.
So check out the offerings, make your selections (view the trailers by clicking on the name of each movie), and curl up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn.
"Deep Water" (2006)
This is based on the disappearance of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst during the Sunday Times Golden Globe, a nonstop, single-handed around-the-world yacht race.
Despite his inexperience, Crowhurst entered the grueling race and put up his home for collateral and set sail before his boat was ready.
He abandoned the race and the boat after it began taking on water shortly after the start, but kept giving false position reports to make it appear as though he was still in the running.
Said Bruce Westbrook, reviewing for the Houston Chronicle, "For this gripping and amazing documentary, such truth emerges not just from the facts, but also the poetry of men who redefine themselves in a risky race on small sailboats."
"The Dove" (1974)
This is a coming of age film based on the true story of Robin Lee Graham (Joseph Bottoms), who, at age 16 set sail on a quest to be the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe. He did it in his 23' sloop, Dove.
The film was produced by the legendary Gregory Peck and co-stars Deborah Raffin, as his girlfriend who follows and meets him at each port.
"The Dove" is "Not only a great adventure story but also a touching love story," concluded Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, reviewing for Spirituality and Practice.
This is another fact-based film depicting Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl’s quest to prove his theory that the Polynesian Islands were originally colonized by South American natives.
He and five companions set sail in 1947 from Peru on a balsa-wood raft built from an ancient design.
They navigated only with stars and ocean currents as their guide, and their only modern equipment was a radio. After three exhausting months at sea, they reached the South Sea islands and proved it was at least possible.
"Surprisingly gripping," wrote Mark Kermode for The Guardian. "Considering we all know the outcome, the levels of tension remain impressive, while an atmosphere of melancholy tempers even the most triumphant moments."
"Maiden" is a documentary film of 24-year-old charter boat cook Tracy Edwards, who skippered a yacht with the first all-female crew in the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race.
The event covered 33,000 miles during a nine-month period, and Edwards became the first woman to receive the Yachtsman of the Year Trophy. The name of her yacht was, of course, "Maiden."
"A tribute to [the] power of one woman's determination," wrote Paul Byrnes, for the Syndey Morning Herald. "'Maiden' is simply riveting, a story of grandeur and sweep that's also moving and intimate because there are so many naked emotions in play."
Yet another documentary film, in which Laura Dekker, a 14-year-old Dutch sailor, set out on a two-year journey to become the youngest person to sail single-handed around the world. A case of giving Robin Lee Graham and his sloop "Dove" proof that anything a boy can do, a girl can do better.
Described as "[a] teen’s 17 months before the mast," Moira MacDonald said in her Seattle Times review, “The film is a compelling tribute to a remarkable achievement, and to a young woman who is, in her own words, 'pretty bad-ass.'"
"Morning Light" (2008)
Another documentary, this one describing 15 young men and women training for the adventure of their lives — competing in the 44th running of the TRANSPAC aboard the TP52 class yacht named "Morning Light."
The TRANSPAC is one of the world's most prestigious open-ocean sailing competitions, and runs from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
They begin their training in Hawaii with world-class teachers, but it is the race itself, a 2,300-mile ordeal featuring top professionals, that molds them into a cohesive whole.
Said Michael O’Sullivan, reviewing for The Washington Post, "'Morning Light' is a sunny, saltwater-splashed tale of inspiration."
"Red Dot on the Ocean" (2014)
This one depicts Matt Rutherford's solo sailboat trip around the western hemisphere in a small sailboat.
"The journey would be enough for a film; it might have been even more compelling had it been left to stand on its own," wrote Ben Kenigsnerg for The New York Times. "Red Dot on the Ocean" portrays the story as triumph over adversity and wayward youth."
"True Spirit" (2023)
Based on another true story, Jessica Watson set sail from Sydney, Australia at age 16 to be the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world. Upon her return to Sydney Harbor eight months later, it seemed as though all off Australia was there to congratulate her.
"Give credit to Spillane for making sure that this movie isn’t just about the heartwarming highs, but about the hard work it took to reach them," wrote Noel Murray for the Los Angeles Times.
"White Squall" (1996)
This is a disaster/survival film based on the fate of the brigantine Albatross, which sank May 2, 1961, allegedly because it had encountered a white squall.
It’s also a coming of age film depicting a group of prep school students who sign up for months of training aboard a sailing ship with Captain Christopher Sheldon (Jeff Bridges) at the helm. The oceangoing voyage is intended to teach the boys teamwork and discipline, but ends up being a lesson in survival when they get caught in the clutches of a massive storm.
"I enjoyed the movie for the sheer physical exuberance of its adventure. It is magnificently mounted and photographed," said film critic Roger Ebert. "I sat up close to the screen, and was immersed in the glory of the sailing ship and the exhilaration of the voyage."
Although it’s true that in 1983, the United States lost the America’s Cup for the first time in its history to Australia, that’s about the only thing factual in the movie "Wind."
Will Parker (Matthew Modine) leads an American crew financed by millionaire Morgan Weld (Cliff Robertson) determined to defeat Australia and return the cup home with an experimental boat designed by Parker’s ex-girlfriend.
"The movie has three sensational race sequences, so well photographed by John Toll that we feel able to float effortlessly a few feet away from the competing boats and see everything," said critic Roger Ebert.
"The real reason to see this movie, though, is because it makes a big yacht race seem so glorious, such grand adventure. Ballard is a former cinematographer with a knack for visualizing the outdoors."
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to Newsmax. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter. Read Michael Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.
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