There are few enough good sailing movies around so it is a welcome breath of fresh air to find one as compelling as this one telling the true story of American yachtsman Mike Plant and his burning ambition to join the ranks of solo round the world racers and to one day win the Vendée Globe.
The film is set back in the 80s when – like most sailors harbouring Vendée Globe aspirations – Plant was chronically underfunded as he tried to cobble together his first campaign, a tilt at the 1986/87 BOC Challenge. He built the boat himself and went on to win the Open 50 class after lapping the world in a time of 157 days.
Plant was a good-looking guy with boundless enthusiasm and drive. He justifiably portrayed himself as a kind of plucky all-American hero trying to take on the French-dominated world of offshore racing.
There was also a gritty side to his personality as evidenced in his life experiences before his professional sailing career which included a solo trek of South America, an escape from Interpol on a drug trafficking charge, and time behind bars in a Portuguese prison.
But perhaps the best indication of Plant’s character is his refusal to cover up some outside assistance given to him when he was sheltering from a storm in a small inlet on a tiny island outcrop south of New Zealand.
When his anchor dragged at the height of the bad weather and his boat was heading for the rocks a gang of scientists stationed on the island came to his rescue. In doing so they touched the boat and therefore eliminated him from the race.
They swore themselves to eternal secrecy but despite his crushing disappointment Plant would have none of that sort of subterfuge and immediately radioed the race organisers to inform them of his breach of the rules.
The honesty and bravery of that act did not go un-noticed by the French public. His determination and honesty did not go unnoticed: 25,000 people lined the breakwater in Les Sables-d’Olonne to give the American a rousing hero’s welcome when he finally completed his circumnavigation.
Plant’s life story is a fascinating one and it is well told in this movie. Spoiler alert – it comes to a sad ending which many of you will know, but I won’t reveal the details of that here for those who don’t.
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