Fancy sitting back and enjoying some dramatic sailing footage from the comfort of your sofa? We pick the best sailing films on Netflix, Prime and more
Recent years have seen a proliferation of sailing films arriving on streaming platforms, with Netflix taking the lead on producing original content but there are many other sailing films on offer on the streaming services that can fulfil your sailing addiction from the couch.
Best sailing films on Netflix
The latest sailing film from the streaming giant, True Spirit, takes a look at the story of Jessica Watson one of the the most famous sailors from the late Noughties and early 2010’s phenomenon of multiple teenagers bidding to become the youngest sailor to sail around the world. Jessica Watson, who set off from Sydney in 2009 aged 16, completed her loop of Antarctica – and a dip north across the Equator in the Pacific Ocean – to return an all-Australian hero after 210 days at sea.
The film is a dramatic retelling of Watson’s story and attempts to tread the fine line between staying true to her story and picking drama out of the narrative. Watson’s story is undoubtedly intriguing and any film taking on the challenge of conveying he long, slow, and arduous experience of the solo adventurer is always going to struggle to weigh realism with drama. But for the most par this stays true enough to the story to make for a satisfying viewing experience.
Untold: The Race of the Century
Another big Netflix production to be released last year, this documentary on the 1983 America’s Cup is bursting with iconic footage and up-close interviews with major players. The story of the 1983 America’s Cup is legendary to those with even a passing interest in sailing, seeing John Bertrand’s Australia II crew beating Dennis Connor’s American Liberty crew to wrest the America’s Cup from the New York Yacht Clubs grasp for the first time in 132 years – the longest winning streak in sporting history.
Even though we all know what happens, it’s still edge of the seat stuff and you can’t help but be reminded (or introduced to) the dizzying drama, which so captured the world and the Australian nation that it led the then Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke to claim: “Any boss who sacks someone for not turning up to work today is a bum,” following the famous victory.
This unflinching documentary film tells the story of Tracy Edwards’ all-female Whitbread Round the World Race campaign, through raw interviews telling of the personality clashes and huge pressures the team were placed under.
It’s an emotional watch, with fantastic footage from the maxi fleets racing mid-ocean: highly recommended.
Adrift is based on the book Red Sky in Mourning – Tami Oldham Ashcraft’s true account of sailing into a Pacific hurricane, dismasting, and then sailing solo under jury rig for 41 days alone to Hawaii.
The true story is astounding but the film plays pretty fast and lose with the facts. For pure entertainment it is still well worth hunting out and the terror of the extreme conditions does come across on the screen. You get to marvel as Tami manages to solve the catalogue of near voyage-ending disasters – no matter how implausible some of it might seem.
Pure escapism, and a reminder that when the chips are down there is usually a way out.
Best sailing films on Prime
This critically acclaimed documentary, by the makers of Touching the Void, tells the tale of the 1968 Golden Globe Race and how Donald Crowhurst falsified his position before mysteriously disappearing. There are impressive amounts of original footage to enjoy over 50 years later.
The 2017 cinematic telling of the 1968 Golden Globe Race, in which Colin Firth delivers a stand-out performance as the complex maverick entrant Donald Crowhurst. There’s a strong emphasis on the family narrative to draw in non-sailing viewers, but the yachting scenes were carefully researched and convincing.
It stands above many other sailing films as a pure viewing experience – helped along by Firth’s considerable talents. For those of us who already know the tragic story of Crowhurst there nothing here to fill in any of the gaps, as you’d expect from a broad-appeal drama, but you cannot help but be moved to relive the story once again.
Best sailing films elsewhere
This one takes a bit of detective work to find, but the full documentary is hosted online and well worth a watch. In contrast to True Spirit, it’s made up of real videos shot by teen Laura Dekker as she sailed around the world in 2010.
Without cinematic production and following Dekker’s stopping route it’s a much less dramatic view of sailing around the world, though no less gripping for it, and a fascinating insight into a remarkable teen. Those who came away from True Spirit frustrated by some of the dramatic license taken may well want to watch this.
It’s impossible to watch the Untold: The Race of the Century story – or indeed any America’s Cup film – without referring back to Wind, the 1992 movie telling of how America lost, and won back the Cup.
Like any Hollywood interpretation there are a few cringeworthy moments, and I wouldn’t recommend watching it with a sailmaker, but it’s a warm-hearted film with some great 12-Metre race scenes, and the memorable catchphrase “Hoist the Whomper!”.
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