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HENNA GAIJIN STUDIO PRESENTS A FILM DIRECTED, PRODUCED, EDITED AND WRITTEN BY ALISTAIR HARDING
WITH MUSIC BY ETSON CAMINHA AND DAVID LEVY FEATURING GRANT RAWLINSON, CHARLIE SMITH,
LUKE RICHMOND, COLIN QUINCEY, SHAUN QUINCEY, AND SCOTT DONALDSON IN 'THE SEA DECIDES'.
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In the beginning it was one of life's grandest adventures. But by the end it would become a desperate bid to do what only two others in history had ever done.
In January 2017, human-powered adventurer Grant Rawlinson began a journey by row boat and bicycle that he planned would take him 12,000km from Singapore to New Zealand.
It was a journey never before attempted and included a world-first attempt at rowing from Singapore to Australia with expedition partner Charlie Smith; a cycle across the Australian continent; and then an attempt to become only the third solo adventurer in history to row across the notoriously dangerous Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand.
It was an expedition that had all the hallmarks of a Boy's Own adventure. And in the beginning, as Rawlinson and Smith rowed through the archipelago of Indonesia, it was indeed a classic adventure story – rowing 24 hours a day, dodging ships, stopping at remote fishing villages, battling storms and the brutal tropical heat... the adventures appeared endless.
But as film maker Alistair Harding followed Rawlinson and Smith's world-first row from Singapore to Australia. And then continued to follow Rawlinson's cycle across the great southern continent – all the while the Tasman Sea lay in wait, just over the horizon. And the story of one of nature's most notorious stretches of water began to emerge.
The crossing of the Tasman Sea is known as arguably the rarest adventure on earth simply because of the brutal difficulties it poses and the rarity of success adventurers have had upon it. The history of it is littered with failures – Andrew McAuley's ill-fated 2007 attempt to kayak across it stands out most after he went missing just 56km short of land. And then there's also the disastrous 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race in which 5 boats sunk, 7 were abandoned and 6 sailors perished.
Astonishingly, the only two solo adventurers to have crossed the Tasman Sea by row boat, at the time of filming, were the father and son pair of Colin and Shaun Quincey. Colin, who rowed from New Zealand to Australia in 1977 – and Shaun, who made the return journey, on behalf of his father, from Australia to New Zealand in 2010. And therefore, as Rawlinson arrived at the East Coast of Australia, to look out over the daunting Tasman Sea, the score was Quinceys 2. Rest of the world 0.
What follows is the story of human ambition colliding with the forces of nature. It is Rawlinson's story first. But also the Quincey's stories of extraordinary success and inspiration. And too, the story of Scott Donaldson – the man who during the filming would become the first person to kayak across the Tasman – and who had already come heart-breakingly close on a previous attempt when he was plucked from the sea by helicopter in sight of land.
But ultimately, it is the story of nature's power. Taking its title from Colin Quincey's own words that willpower will only get you so far and ultimately human-kind has only a small say in its own destiny:
"Anyone can attempt to do it. But it's absolutely dependent on the weather and the sea. You can plan everything and look at all the charts and all the weather. But ultimately the sea decides whether they're going to allow you to cross or not".
At times, it is a brutal and unforgiving story that will make you wince and wonder just how far you would go for ambition. At other times it lays bare the extraordinary power of dreams, the value of failure and the importance of inspiration and purpose to the evolution of the human species.
But most of all, it is an awe-inspiring glimpse of nature’s power and a reminder that we humans are never masters of it, but always products of it.
THE MUSIC OF THE FILM
During the filming of THE SEA DECIDES, while in East Tmor, filmmaker Alistair Harding was lucky enough to meet Etson Caminha – perhaps that country's most loved musician. And it was from there where the theme music of The Sea Decides was born.
Etson's theme music for THE SEA DECIDES, recorded and produced by David Levy, is not only both exceptionally beautiful and haunting, but it also provides an authentic soundtrack for the film, rooted in the region Grant Rawlinson's epic expedition traveled through.
If you're attending one of the festival screenings of THE SEA DECIDES, you'll hear more of Etson's music both before and after the show. And we're hoping to use the opportunity to promote Etson's new album and he and David are currently producing.
Help Etson's family rebuild their home
Recently, Etson's young family has been displaced due to recent flooding in East Timor. So to help with the reconstruction of his home, his producer (the amazing David Levy) is producing a collector's edition vinyl record release of Etson's latest album which is now on pre-sale, with all proceeds going towards the reconstruction of Etson's home. Please visit www.gofundme.com/Etson to get yourself a collector's edition of the album and help this amazing musician's family get home.
"The hard part of the Tasman is its unpredictability. It can be a very nasty bit of water."
First person to row across the Tasman Sea
"I think it's important that people once or twice in their lives get an ultimate focus to achieve something. The Tasman was that for me."
Second person to row across the Tasman Sea
MEET THE CAST
The main subject of THE SEA DECIDES is human-powered adventurer, Grant Rawlinson. A New Zealander, Rawlinson moved to Singapore in the 1990s where he first played rugby for the national team, then began climbing mountains, culminating in his successful ascent of Mt Everest in 2012. Following that success, and looking for new challenges, Rawlinson began undertaking long, human-powered journeys, which then inspired him to dream up his greatest adventure of all – a 12,000km row and cycle from his home in Singapore to his birthplace in New Zealand. THE SEA DECIDES is the story of that expedition. Ultimately it is the Tasman Sea that will decide Rawlinson’s destiny – both in his personal life where he battles to understand his desires to be both an adventurer and a father; and in the world where he must learn that to live with nature, one must first learn to submit to it.
Due to the fact the first rowing leg of the Rowing from Home to Home expedition depicted in THE SEA DECIDES was one that had never before been undertaken, and due to the shipping traffic the expedition would encounter, it was important that Grant Rawlinson had a rowing partner. That partner was Charlie Smith – who helped Rawlinson keep the boat moving 24 hours a day through the Java, Bali, Flores and Timor Seas from Singapore to Australia. It was a world-first expedition in its own right, and for Smith, it was his first major taste of the life of adventure. Since his part in the expedition he has moved back to his native England where he continues his passion for adventure – ice-climbing in Arctic Sweden, ultra-distance running and paragliding in alpine regions and even undertaking a 17-day traverse on foot across Russia’s frozen Lake Baikal in March 2020.
FIRST PERSON TO ROW ACROSS THE TASMAN SEA (1977)
An integral part of the film's story is Colin Quincey, who became the first person to ever row a boat across the Tasman Sea in early 1977. It was an extraordinary journey which took him over two months rowing from New Zealand. And his reason for doing it, he said, was that he wanted to inspire young people to test themselves. And when 33 years later his son Shaun became the only person to match his feat, Colin’s wish came true in a way that most parents can only dream of. Colin passed away in 2018, and so his appearance in THE SEA DECIDES was his final chance to tell his extraordinary tale.
SECOND PERSON TO ROW ACROSS THE TASMAN SEA (2010)
Incredibly the only other person to have rowed solo across the Tasman Sea is the son of its first conquerer. Shaun Quincey rowed himself into the history books in 2010 when he made the return journey from his father's 1977 success, rowing from Coffs Harbour in Australia to 90-Mile Beach at the top of New Zealand. It was, he said, the hardest thing he would probably ever do. But also one of the most important things he’d ever do – to pay homage to his childhood hero, his father, and play his own part in inspiring others to conquer their own challenges. Shaun’s insights into what it takes to cross the Tasman Sea are invaluable to the production of THE SEA DECIDES, and to see him alongside his father in this film is extraordinarily powerful.
FIRST PERSON TO KAYAK ACROSS THE TASMAN SEA (2018)
At the same time that Grant Rawlinson was preparing his attempt to cross the Tasman Sea, Scott Donaldson was also preparing for an attempt to make the first solo crossing of the Tasman Sea by kayak. It was a journey which he had come so agonisingly close to completing on a previous attempt when he was helicoptered from his boat just 80km short of New Zealand. An invaluable friend to the production of this film, Donaldson achieved his dream of becoming the first person to kayak the Tasman Sea in 2018 – and thus became the first person without the name Quincey to cross the Tasman Sea solo by human power!
Growing up on cattle stations across Australia’s Northern Territory was a big part in leading Luke Richmond into a life of adventure – which has included time in the army, BASE jumping, climbing some of the world’s highest mountains, crossing the Gobi Desert on foot and rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. His part in Grant Rawlinson’s expedition gives us our closest look at the extreme dangers the Tasman Sea poses.
"It's really easy to be strong and confident on land, but when you're in that kind of environment, you're stripped of your ego."
Grant Rawlinson's rowing partner, Singapore to Australia
MEET THE FILM MAKERS
When Alistair Harding heard about Grant Rawlinson’s planned expedition in early 2016, it was his love for telling stories about everyday people living extraordinary lives that drew him to the project. To see the ordinary person inside those that inspire us is to catch a glimpse of our own capabilities. And so what was supposed to be only a year-long project then became a 4-year odyssey travelling from Singapore, through Indonesia, to East Timor and Australia before finally arriving in New Zealand – all the while filming-photographing-writing-and-editing the stories of Grant Rawlinson, Charlie Smith and Luke Richmond alongside the legends of the Tasman Sea – Colin Quincey, Shaun Quincey and Scott Donaldson. The result is THE SEA DECIDES – filmed entirely by either himself or the participants, then written and edited with the goal of examining the value of adventurers to society and telling the extraordinary history of the men who crossed the Tasman Sea solo – perhaps the rarest accomplishment in adventure on earth.
ETSON CAMINHA AND DAVID LEVY
Perhaps fittingly, during the filming of THE SEA DECIDES, Etson Caminha became part of the production when he was filmed by Alistair Harding during the expedition's stop in East Timor. Perhaps East Timor’s most famous musician, Etson has performed all over the world as both a musician and an artist. Together with producer David Levy, who is known for his work producing music by refugees around the world for the Peace Tones project, the pair have produced a soundtrack that captures the music and soul of the waters the expedition ventured through, and sets a haunting background to the story of humankind's relationship with nature.