Adrift hits cinemas this week in the UK with Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin starring in the film which tells the story of Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp and their sailing disaster in 1983. The film is promoted as ‘true story’ but how true to facts is Adrift? Were they really stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after a storm hit their yacht? And did they really survive? We take a look at the true story of Adrift – the Tami Oldham Ashcraft and Richard Sharp sailing disaster.

True Story of Adrift - Tami Oldham Ashcraft and Richard Sharp Sailing Disaster

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the film Adrift.

Tami Oldham Ashcraft and Richard Sharp

In September 1983, Tami Oldham Ashcraft and her fiancé, Richard Sharp, set off on the trip of a lifetime. Having been sailing around the globe for the past 6 months, the pair decided to take a break from their 36-foot sailboat and instead take a job delivering a 44-foot yacht named Hazana from Tahiti to San Diego. In theory, the journey would take them 4,000 miles across the clear Pacific Ocean. But 20 days into their journey, disaster struck.


Hurricane Raymond (1983)

On 12th October 12 1983, Ashcraft and Sharp’s boat found itself ambushed by a late-season storm, Hurricane Raymond. Despite trying to avoid it, the category four hurricane changed direction, almost stalking Hazana. The pair were in serious danger and were now battling 40 foot waves and 140 knot winds as they tried to run north of Raymond.

It became apparent they were fighting a losing battle and Sharp insisted Ashcraft get down below deck to shelter, while he secured himself with a safety harness on deck. According to interviews with Ashcraft since, she heard screams and Sharp shouting, “Oh my God!”, before she blacked-out having be thrown against the cabin wall as the yacht ‘pitchpoled’ and ‘flipped end over end.’


Tami Oldham Ashcraft was unconscious for 27 hours. When she woke, she ventured above deck to find the storm was over but also found Sharp’s safety line dangling off the boat. He was never to be seen again.

Lost at Sea

The boat had been severely damaged during the storm. The sails were waterlogged, the masts were broken in half and the cabin was full of water. Ashcraft also found the navigation system and the emergency position-indicating radio device were also both broken.

Lost, heartbroken and now completely alone, Ashcraft battled through to fashion a makeshift sail from a broken pole. She then created a pump to keep the cabin from irreversible flooding. Navigation, however, was still a problem. Ashcraft was only left with a sextant, a navigational instrument, and a watch to help her navigate. She decided to head for Hilo, Hawaii – which was still 1,500 miles away.


41 Days in Isolation

To help her navigation, every day at midday, Ashcraft would look through the sextant’s telescope and adjust it to measure the sun’s angle above the horizon. This helped her to work out the badly beaten ship’s latitude on nautical maps.

But while navigation was now achievable, Ashcraft began hallucinating, seeing boats and planes in the distance. Her mental state was extremely fragile and she even considered suicide. According to interviews, Ashcraft says she even took a rifle, loaded it and put it in her mouth.

Ashcraft survived 41 days alone in the middle of the Pacific, surviving on peanut butter and canned fruit cocktails and sardines. Evetually she was found near the entrance of Hawaii’s Hilo Harbour by a 300-foot Japanese research ship. They towed her inside the reef and a Coast Guard Auxiliary towed her to safety.

She cried tears of joy.



Despite the ordeal, Ashcraft still sails to this day with more than 50,000 offshore miles under her belt. For six year after the event, Ashcraft was unable to read thanks to the head trauma. In 1998, she released a memoir about the trip to San Diego titled ‘Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss and Survival at Sea.’

Years after her accident, Ashcraft took the ring Sharp had given her in Tahiti, attached it to a rose and put it out to sea. She has since remarried and now has two children.


Adrift film (2018)

In 2017, STX Entertainment acquired the rights to Ashcraft’s book and the film was put into production with Shailene Woodley cast as Tami Oldham Ashcraft. Director Baltasar Kormákur was soon on board and in April 2017, Miles Teller was in negotiations to co-star opposite Woodley as Richard Sharp. However, due to scheduling conflicts, Sam Claflin joined the film a month later.

Titled Adrift, filming began soon after in Fiji and lasted just five weeks with members of cast a crew suffering from seasickness over the course of filming. A trailer was released at the start of 2018.

Adrift is out in the UK on Friday 29th June 2018. Check out the trailer below.


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