Ghost Ship

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.

IMG_0498Now 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:

IMG_0499 IMG_0500However, 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:

HE081008_HE02_03 features. Donald Crowhurst in October 1968, preparing to set off on his round the world expedition. Pictures Herald Express
Donald Crowhurst in October 1968, preparing to set off on his round the world expedition. (Herald Express)

So, what can the story be? I’ve asked around on 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.


3 thoughts on “Ghost Ship

  1. Well, the replica Teignmouth Electron arrived in Teignmouth harbour today (30 May) for the Colin Firth film, and it’s NOT the boat in these pictures. It looks like a very faithful reproduction of the original, that the film crew tell me was built in Essex for the film, then launched at Portland and sailed here from there, for filming next week. A friend saw the other boat (the one in these pictures) in Bristol last week, and says that it’s for a low-budget film of the same story that’s also currently in production. A strange coincidence, or perhaps not?


  2. The tri in Bristol has nothing to do with the film directed by James Marsh featuring Colin Firth, the boat is a joke the only similarity is it has three hills and the same name


  3. Thanks Gents. Yes I understand there are two films about Crowhurst in production, and this is for the low-budget one. Julian, any pics of the Colin FIrth replica? I’d be happy to post a comparison snap!


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