You may remember our article from 2019 about Dustin Reynolds (Double Amputee Learned to Sail on YouTube, Is Sailing Solo Around the World). The title fairly well sums up Reynolds’s incredible achievements in the field of saying “screw it” and just absolutely going for it. The film Singlehandedly takes a close and beautiful look at Reynolds as he made his way through the infamous Drake Passage, one of the roughest, most demanding hunks of water on Earth.
Singlehandedly was made by filmmaker Stash Wislocki who runs Art Farm Media. Wislocki spent a month and a half with Reynolds preparing for, and sailing the Drake aboard Reynolds’ 38-foot sailboat. Jaap Bel, a professional sailor from the Netherlands, was the third member of the crew, with Barry Kennedy, a seasoned vet of big open ocean sails serving as captain for the voyage.
Wislocki knew he’d gather incredible images sailing from Cape Horn to Antarctica, and as a non-sailor he knew it would be, well, thrilling. But he was attracted to Reynolds’ incredible story and wondered what already living through that kind of adversity would mean when confronting 40-foot seas and 5-knot wind. “I didn’t want to make another film about some guys sailing to Antarctica,” Wislocki said. “I really liked the backdrop of Dustin’s story, the lows he’d been through and overcome.”
In the film, you don’t see the story of Reynold’s accident until midway through. We won’t spoil the crux here, but a few years ago, Reynolds lost an arm and a leg when a driver crashed into his motorcycle in a horrific collision.
Wislocki builds slowly to a discussion of that low point in Reynolds’ life, first sketching the character of the man, the boat, the dramatic scenes of the islands surrounding Antarctica.
“I wanted you to know who Dustin is before you got to know about his accident,” he said. “I wanted to build a connection before exposing the trauma.”
A great choice when many storytellers would use Reynolds’ catastrophe as the lede, assuming the viewer would need to know about that to care about why this random guy is sailing around the world, mostly alone save for this perilous trip.
Truth is, people don’t overcome the loss of limbs and then go on to achieve monumental goals without already having the kind of inner strength that already makes for a great story. Reynolds struggled, sure, but, as Wislocki shows, he isn’t defined by his accident.
The crew successfully made it across the Drake. Wislocki was mostly stunned. As they approached Antarctica they were surrounded by icebergs “beyond description and rational size,” he said. They spent days locked in ice, trying to winch themselves along, the same way polar explorers did centuries ago. At one point, heinous freezing winds destroyed the main sail, the autopilot broke, and Bel had to spend hours on deck in awful conditions jerry rigging a fix to keep them in a semblance of control.
“Sailing is a great place to meet people with fantastic stories,” Wislocki said.
Now he has his own.
Watch his film, Singlehanded, below. See more about Reynolds at The Singlehanded Sailor.
Stills courtesy of Wislocki