Walking past the marina lock yesterday, I did a double take. At first I thought ‘there’s an interesting trimaran’; then I noticed the name.
Now the real Teignmouth Electron is a pile of splinters on a beach in the Cayman Islands, where she’s been since her entry in the 1969 Sunday Times Golden Globe race ended in the mid-Atlantic suicide of her singlehanded skipper, Devon electronic engineer Donald Crowhurst.
Crowhurst’s is one of sailing’s most infamous (and sad) stories. The Golden Globe was a contest to be the first man to sail, alone, around the world without stopping, following Francis Chichester’s one-stop navigation in 1967 with our beloved Gipsy Moth IV. Teignmouth Electron was ill prepared, entered late, and uncompetitive. In desperation, Crowhurst began to falsify log entries- suggesting he had circumnavigated the Southern Ocean- whereas in reality he never left the Atlantic. Overcome by the guilt of the deception, he is thought to have suffered a mental breakdown, and, far from help, took his own life rather than return and have the deceit exposed. A drifting Teignmouth Electron was picked up mid-ocean by a freighter and, although initially expected to be returned to the UK, she ended up in the Carribean, enduring a brief period as a charter yacht before being abandoned on Cayman Brac.
So where does the vessel above come in? She is clearly intended to be a replica, as she has a windvane (for crossing oceans) on the back, as well as a float at the top of her mast, part of a home-designed ‘computer controlled self’righting system’ that Crowhurst begun to install (but did not finish) before the race:
However, Teignmouth Electron seems a strange (and rather disturbing) boat for an enthusiast to re-create, and the boat in Penarth Marina isn’t very authentic anyway. For a start, she’s a sloop (one mast), whereas the real McCoy was a ketch, with two:
So, what can the story be? I’ve asked around on YBW.com without any leads. My best guess is that the boat is a replica intended for use in the forthcoming, as-yet untitled biopic of Crowhurst, which is to star Colin Firth as the man himself. With so much media based around Cardiff Bay, this seems a reasonable assumption. So I’ll be looking forward to seeing the movie- Colin Firth is always good value, and I imagine he would do Crowhurst justice. Which, after 46 years, will be a Good Thing.