Bring the Teignmouth Electron Home

In 1968, I was very small and was probably more interested in chewing my teddy bear’s ear, than following the Sunday Times Golden Globe yacht race. Perhaps I should have put teddy down and paid more attention.

The idea for the race was conceived in the aftermath of Francis Chichester’s successful round the world circumnavigation in 1967. Public enthusiasm was high and the British had a new hero in this intrepid sailor. The Sunday Times had sponsored Chichester and were considering how they could capitalise on the success of the venture. Somehow, the idea of a single-handed, non-stop voyage was born.

Many people said that the voyage couldn’t be done. The strain on the boat would be too great and the risk of personal injury unthinkable. Some people even said that the psychological effects of such a solitary existence at sea, for so long, would drive a person mad.

But by mid 1968, the race was a reality. Two prizes were on offer. One for the fastest circumvatigation and one for the first back home. The race had attracted just nine men.

The sea-faring abilities and experience of the race entrants varied widely, as did their states of preparedness. Donald Crowhurst, a weekend sailor, was perhaps the least ready when he left Teignmouth on 31 October. He was hoping to win the race in his catamaran, the Teignmouth Electron, and gain publicity for his ailing electronics firm.

Crowhurst’s journey, hoax and descent into madness is one of the great tales of the sea, which only came to light after the Teignmouth Electron was found floating, abandoned, in the mid-Atlantic by a Royal Mail ship.

Crowhurst was never found.

The Teignmouth Electron now lies on the beach at Cayman Brac. Abandoned again.

So, a plea to the Maritime Museuem in Falmouth, here in the UK. Why not save this yacht, for the nation? A rich, human, cautionary story stems from this little boat: lies, money, bravery, cleverness. Isn’t there something here for all of us to learn?

Please join the campaign: http://chn.ge/14DNrsE

Want to find out more?
The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall
Deep Water (DVD)
National Maritime Museum Cornwall (www.nmmc.co.uk)

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About Dystonia Girl

Horse rider who loves to blog and do lots of other things too. Lives with, but is not defined by, a rare neurological condition called Dystonia.
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9 Responses to Bring the Teignmouth Electron Home

  1. Neil says:

    I couldn’t agree more, though I understand the family of Donald Crowhurst do not wish the boat to be brought back to the UK (I guess totally understandably). The story is truly tragic but hugely compelling and I find it sad that the boat will rot to nothing rather than stand as a testament to one man’s (misguided?) obsession with what was probably the ultimate test of human endurance, as well as a reminder of the race as a whole, which was entirely contested by probably the maddest and most eclectic bunch of individuals who ever entered a ‘sporting’ event…
    That Crowhurst was not a sportsman, and that he sailed a totally untested boat, under threat of ruin if he did not take part (his backer having effectively informed him he must sail, or lose everything) just adds to the tragedy of the whole venture.
    The boat should be saved, or at least protected from further vandalism or decay.

    • I’m glad I’m not on my own…whilst there’s no doubt that Crowhurst cheated (which is clearly wrong), I find it hard to judge him harshly. The pressure he must have been under is quite incredible. Also, I think I’m right in saying, that the actual sailing he did amounted to one of the longest catamaran voyages undertaken at the time (I could be wrong on that one). Bearing in mind the state of the Teignmouth Electron, that’s pretty good.

      • Neil says:

        It was very early days for cats and tri’s. Crowhurst’s boat also suffered from being rushed in build and was leaking from launch. It didn’t help that he didn’t even have a working bilge pump and had to bail the boat out by hand daily with a bucket…

        I agree he cheated, but given the pressure he was under I think he was absolutely driven into a corner.

        I’m not a sailer, but when I was about 10 someone gave me a book about the race and it hooked me then, and 30 years later I still find the whole thing bizarrely facinating. I think it’s the fact that you just couldn’t make any of it up helped! If you haven’t read ‘A voyage for madmen’, do it! At least two competitors didn’t even know how to sail!

        Another competitor, Nigel Tetley in the same race almost finished in his Trimaran, Victress. However in a horrible twist of fate, victress broke up almost in sight of home because Tetley thought he was racing Crowhurst for the fastest time and the £5000 prize, not knowing Crowhurst had been circling the Atlantic for a few months faking his logs. Instead of nursing his Trimaran home, he hammered it to beat Crowhurst and she broke up and sank.

        Then in a further twist of tragedy, after the race, Tetley tried to get sponsorship for another attempt to go round the world and break the time record, unfinished business… However he tried and tried and failed to get a sponsor, and went out one day and committed suicide. So really Crowhurst’s disaster claimed two lives.

        The race was just epic for many of the wrong reasons. But should be remembered.

        As I understand it Teignmouth Electron is now owned by some American Artist. It looks like he is quite happy to leave it rotting on it’s beach in Cayman Brac. Judging by the lack of update on his website I get the (hopefully mistaken) impression it was a bit of a passing fad a there has been no update on what he plans to do with it for some years now.

        Lets hope I am wrong, or that someone with some financial means manages to buy it off the guy and save it.

      • Thanks for that. I’d also recommend The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst which is a classic.
        Shame about the Teignmouth Electron. I’ve often wondered who owned it now, particularly when I’ve seen the photos of it at Cayman Brac (the locals say it’s haunted). I just assumed it was the Crowhurst family. It would be great to get it back to the UK. The maritime museum in Falmouth showcases these types of stories and that would be a perfect addition.
        Best wishes
        DG

  2. Neil says:

    Oh and you are right, if Crowhurst had actually sailed round the world he would have been the first to do it in a multihulled boat (a Trimaran), and 283 days was probably some kind of record in itself for time spent afloat in one in 1968. Nigel Tetley in the same race did in fact did cross his outward track before sinking and therefore I am pretty sure holds the official title of ‘first person to officially cross the globe in a multihulled boat’ DESPITE not making it back to port and ‘finish’ the golden globe race itself.

    Anyway, enough history – where do we sign to plead with the Maritime Museum to go and try and buy Teignmouth Electron? And surely there must be others who want this too?

    Off to Amazon to get Deep Water on DVD. Good luck in your quest.

  3. Skippy says:

    Judging by the most recent pics on Flicker there is not enough left in one piece to make a trip anywhere.

    I also thought it was a worthy endeavor if in a slightly macabre sort of way, I’m afraid most people wouldn’t view it in a respectful, thought provoking and tragic light like us romantics do.

  4. Mark says:

    There’s nothing to bring home as it has been completely neglected, subject to the elements and some nasty hurricanes. A real shame no one took care of it. If you want current photos of what’s left, let me know.

    • Hello. And thank you. Any photos welcome. Yes, I know it’s a wreck, but the story resonates with so many people. I think I’ve given up hope on getting anything back to the UK and I probably ought to remove this post from my blog.
      Best wishes
      DG

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