The Mercy is a biographical drama film that is set and filmed in Teignmouth. It stars Oscar winners Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz who played yachtsman Donald Crowhurst and his wife Clare respectively.
Firth won the Oscar for best actor in a leading role for his part in the Kings Speech, and has also starred in hit films such as Bridget Jones’ Diary, Love Actually and a Single Man.
Rachel Weisz, who plays his wife Clare, won an Oscar for her role in the Constant Gardener, and has starred in, among others, the Mummy films and About a Boy. She is also married to James Bond actor Daniel Craig.
But the real star of the film is Teignmouth’s traditional fishing harbour and the seafront showing the beauty of the area on this corner of South Devon.
The filming took place in 2017 and modern boats were moved out and classic boats were brought in. Many local residents were used as extras and had to dress in 1960’s clothing with females wearing their hair into brushed beehives.
The film is about Donald Crowhurst who was born in India in 1932 and moved to England in 1947 when India gained it’s independence. He joined the RAF but was asked to leave and then joined the Army but was thrown out for poor discipline.
He then becme a businessman and set up a factory in Bridgwater, Somerset, called Electron Utilisation and was a keen weekend amateur sailor.
Donald decided to design and manufacture a hand held radio directions finder that could determine your location at sea by using marine and aviation beacons. He called the device The Navicator and it initially had some success but he needed more money to keep his factory and device in business.
He decided to remortgage the factory and the family home to ease the situation which led into a grave of financial difficulty making everything a hell of a lot worse.
He saw an advert for The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, which is a single – handed round – the -world event that was inspired by the success of yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester who was the first man on Earth to have achieved this feat in 1966-67 in 9 months and 1 day.
Donald decided to enter the race convinced he would win the cash prize of £5000, today’s equivalent of £61000, which in turn would solve all his monetary problems and save his business even though his navigational and sailing skills were a bit slapdash and questionable.
He raised all the necessary sponsorship monies and the amateur sailor set sail on the fateful trip on the 31st October 1968 on his 40 foot yacht.
Early in the voyage he soon got into difficulties as he was only making half the planned speed. After passing through the Cape of Good Hope he disappeared and went missing.
In fact, he had decided to secretly abandon the race and started reporting back false positions and began loitering and hiding in the South Atlantic, never to leave it.
Donald’s last radio transmission was on the 29th June, his boat was found on 10th July 1969 and the last log entered was on 1st July. On reading his previous logs they were complex and conflicting showing mental health issues.
Donald’s mental health deterioated daily and he ended up having a full blown mental breakdown, went insane and eventually commited suicide by jumping overboard.
One of the bows of his yacht lies decaying on a beach in Cayman Brac in the Caribbean and can still be seen today.
On a happier note the Winner of the Golden Globe Race 1968/69, Robin Knox-Johnstone donated his £5000 prize to Donald Crowhurst’s wife and children.
Hats off to you Robin.