ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: Ted Turner’s Greatest Race (2015)

Directed by Gary Jobson

The 30 for 30 shorts series has wielded quite a few stunners, and when you include Errol Morris’ It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports shorts, you could even compile a greatest hits and have a pretty good compilation on your hands. However, the series has a few clunkers as well, films which don’t quite seem to fit the format for whatever reason. Perhaps they need more fleshing out to fully tell the story they’re trying to tell, or perhaps the subject matter is just dull to begin with. I fear that with the latest in the series, Ted Turner’s Greatest Race, it may be a combination of the two. The film speaks to Turner’s triumph at the 1979 Fastnet yachting race, which is notable for its inclement weather conditions.

The Fastnet race is a race which begins in England, races around the Fastnet rock just off the coast of Ireland, and finishes at the port of Plymouth. In 1979, Turner and his crew faced strong storms at open sea, but managed to persevere and win the race. However, there were countless other boats whose fate were lost at sea, with crews having to abandon boats and some lives even being lost at sea. Gary Jobson, who was part of Turner’s crew, directs without a true sense of the type of story he wishes to tell. I couldn’t tell whether I was supposed to see Turner as this great man who won this impossible race, or whether I was supposed to see the 1979 Fastnet as a great tragedy. Jobson seems to want it both ways, but succeeds in neither.

Part of the film’s unconvincing tribute to Turner is Turner himself, who speaks about the Fastnet with mild interest, leaving me to believe it was just another race to him, which either means his ego is enormous, his pride/interest in his accomplish is insignificant, which may also lead me to believe that he is not affected by the lives lost during the race. As I said in the opening paragraph, perhaps if Jobson had a feature length to explore the details of the race, the intricacies of Turner and the other crew, a better film would have resulted. But at the same time, I’m asking myself how much I even want to see that film, based on how unsuspenseful and uneventful Jobson seemed to make a pretty intense boating race.

** – Poor


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