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Around the World Alone


Editor's Choice of Outstanding Films

Filmed against the changing moods of the southern oceans, this celebration of the human spirit pits men against the elements and against their fellows in a nine month, 27,000 mile, solo sailing race around the world. Animated maps and diagrams follow the 17 contestants from their embarkation at Newport, R.I., around the capes of Africa and South America. Viewed from the air, the ocean, and the vessels themselves, the race is a cinematic spectacle, the yachts heeling to impossible angles as they speed across sparkling seas.

Interspersed with the racing footage, the contestants appear to talk about their experiences, their feelings, and the motives that drive individuals to risk all in such an endeavor. A spirited musical score mirrors the action as swampings and shipwreck cull the little fleet. Only 10 complete the course, straggling back into Newport in collective and individual triumph. To finish is to win.

One need not be a sailing buff to enjoy the human interest and maritime adventure of this beautiful program, and public library audiences should find it a welcome addition.

Sailing Magazine
by Shimon-Craig Van Collie

Narrated by Robin Knox-Johnston, the first solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe, THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE is a very professional and penetrating look at long distance single-handing. The 58-minute film focuses on the 1982-83 BOC Around the World Alone Race, won by French sailor Philippe Jeantot. More than a saga of competition, THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE reveals the trials and tribulations of the 16 entries on their nine-month trek around the globe.

Technically, the video is well-constructed with a mixture of sailing shots, dockside preparations, graphics demonstrating their courses and interviews shot before, during and after the race. There are three stopovers in Cape Town, South Africa; Sydney, Australia; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Knox-Johnston repeatedly emphasizes that at each of those points, the participants demonstrated increasing affection for each other, win, lose or draw. "The guy that finishes wins" was the operational motto for the fleet.

Some neither won nor finished. Approaching Australia, Desmond Hampton's Gypsy Moth V was battling with Jeantot's Credit Agricole for the fleet lead. Hampton took an ill-timed nap as he neared land and ended up on the rocks while the Frenchman surged ahead. The editors dramatically cut back and forth between the Englishman salvaging parts of his ruined craft with a chain saw and Jeantot pulling up to the dock in Sydney amid cheers and popping champagne corks.

For action, adventure and drama, THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE is hard to beat. Much of that is due to its professional production and editing in addition to the subject matter it explores.

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Revised: May 04, 2012.