Sydney-Hobart Documentary


Channel 4 screened a programme on the Sydney-Hobart on Monday evening and Mark Chisnell watched
There is probably not a more unsettling time to sit down and watch a documentary on the tragic 1998 Sydney-Hobart Race, in which British Olympic sailor Glyn Charles and five others died, than with the wind still whistling from the biggest storm in a decade. And 24 sailors in Les Sables d'Olonne, preparing to race alone, non-stop around the world. In researching previous articles on that Hobart race, I've read the report of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's enquiry, Rob Mundle's book Fatal Storm, and talked to some of those involved. The programme had little to say that was new, beyond the mutterings of some local fishermen. If there are more worthwhile conclusions to be made, they will surely come from the Australian Coroner's enquiry, which is now considering the final submissions. But the nature of this documentary was not really revelatory or investigative. It was largely a handful of personal accounts of what happened, from some of those involved. It's always a different experience to watch someone tell a story, than to read their words, dryly reported. And while we could perhaps have done without the 'reconstructions' that seem an inevitable part of modern documentaries, the footage of the waves rolling under Stand Aside, as her crew waited to be pulled off by helicopter, was truly chilling. And ultimately the programme seemed to contain a simple truth, that will be the subtext of all the books and reports and enquiries - that despite all our technology, the ocean remains a dangerous and unpredictable place. And that if we're in the wrong place at the wrong time, we and our crewmates may not be heroes, that our gear may be suspect, and that our luck may run out. It's something we should all bear in mind every time we step

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