Fifty-four years ago this month, in a push for publicity, The Sunday Times offered £5,000 to whoever could sail solo nonstop around the world the fastest. It was technically a race, but that was an afterthought, as no one had ever completed the feat.

There were no qualification requirements and few rules. Nine men joined the race, one of whom had never sailed. Just one man finished, 312 days and 27,000 miles later.

But it was two participants who never completed the race that generated the most news. One ended up dead, the other found himself happier than ever. Both outcomes came from decisions made at sea, but neither had anything to do with sailing.

The two men, Donald Crowhurst and Bernard Moitessier, are astounding examples of how the quality of your life is shaped by who you want to impress. Their stories are extreme, but what they dealt with was just a magnified version of what ordinary people face all the time, and likely one you’re facing right now.

Donald Crowhurst was a tinkerer who came up with his own boat modifications. Convinced his innovations could propel him to win the Sunday Times race, he faced just one obstacle: he was broke, and stood no chance of financing the race himself.

Crowhurst struck a deal with an English businessman who agreed to cover the cost of the race under two conditions: They would orchestrate a media frenzy, portraying Crowhurst as a sailing savant. And if Crowhurst didn’t finish, he (Read more...)