Burk’s Berth

DVD Review

Burk’s Berth

Clay Burkhalter's mini 6.5
Well-produced video documentaries about sailboat racing just don’t come along very often, so we try to review them for the Anarchists whenever we can, and if it’s the kind of racing we dig, more the better. So we were extra-stoked to receive an advance copy of the 55-minute documentary Madstreak from producer Nancy Ogden, and we immediately sat down with an adult beverage to check out the film.

It’s the story of Clay Burkhalter’s 2007 Mini-Transat race aboard Acadia, and the movie opens with beautiful footage of some of the Mini racing leading up to the big event. Clear and compelling voiceovers introduce the audience to the race and the class, and short "talking heads" clips from the top racers reinforce the lesson.

The movie continues with longer clips of the racers, though it focuses on Clay, and to a lesser extent, Isabelle Joschke as the sexy blonde wins the first leg of the race. Some drama develops as she feels the pressure of competition. No woman has ever won the overall race before and the story was worth developing, but you can tell the footage available to the editors was limited, and when the leg to Brazil starts, the footage shifts to what they had – on board footage of Burkhalter.

He’s an interesting character, though at first, his dry and cynical demeanor is a bit off putting. But the more you listen to him, the more interesting he gets, and he lends a "Big Lebowski" tone to the production that gets enjoyable as you watch it, especially as sleep deprivation sets in.

The race itself – seen from one man’s camera – is fairly uneventful, but for a short and frightening clip when Acadia is crossing the bow of a cruise ship in the middle of nowhere. Clay’s tattered state and the necessities of decision-making at sea kept our interest up, and the mast-cam footage of the Mini hurtling along under full sail in big seas and breeze are worth the price of the DVD alone.

On a negative note, the soundtrack is dull and lifeless at times, and fails to take advantage of some of the intense footage by filling your ears with slow and sleepy tunes for most of it. And Paul Cayard’s sound bites hurt rather than help – no matter how highly regarded he is, a complete monotone just doesn’t play well on camera.

We’ll let you find out the rest for yourself, and if you have any interest in offshore solo sailing or the Mini, we recommend that you do. You can check out the movie’s website here, and contact them here to buy a copy.