Once labeled a “youth-at-risk,” Matt Rutherford risks it all in a death-defying attempt to be the first person to sail alone and nonstop around North and South America. Professional sailors called him crazy and declared the journey “a suicide mission.” Braving the icebergs of the Arctic and the stormy seas of Cape Horn is no easy feat for even the most experienced sailor, much less a novice.

Matt’s childhood was fraught with obstacles. Growing up in an obscure Christian cult, he struggled with learning disabilities that made life excruciating at home and at school. Matt spent more of his early teens on the streets than in school.  Sitting in a jail cell at 17, he had an epiphany and began to turn his life around. Rutherford bought his first sailboat sight unseen on the Internet and learned to sail on the fly. Four years later, he embarked on a single-handed voyage from the USA to Europe, West Africa and back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. He had found his calling.

After reading about Ernest Shackleton and Arctic explorers, Matt became obsessed with sailing alone through the Northwest Passage – the mostly ice-clogged route through the Arctic linking the Atlantic to the Pacific. That obsession became a 27,000 mile quest to be the first sailor to circumnavigate the Americas alone without stopping.

Red Dot on the Ocean is full of surprises. It is beyond inspiring, a film that makes us all feel we can do and endure more than we imagine.

Rights Available

Worldwide VOD and Digital
Airing nationwide on U.S. public television
International broadcast rights – please inquire

Program Details

FORMAT: 1 x 77′ Feature Documentary
PRODUCER: The Sailing Channel and Flannery Films

Technical Details

MASTER FILE: ProRes 422 HQ, 1920 x 1080
VIDEO: Texted
AUDIO: Full Mix Stereo



“Endlessly engrossing….It’s hard to get more inspirational than the real-life voyage of Matt Rutherford, a former juvenile offender with five prison stints and a couple of learning disabilities who became the first person to solo circumnavigate the Americas nonstop….Documentarian Amy Flannery gives us a feel for the constant pounding of the waves in rough water, juxtaposed with the dangerous beauty of icebergs….You can’t help but be gratified at this eminently nice guy’s amazing accomplishment. ‘We all have a gift,’ he says. ‘We all have a place in this world.’ And he’s clearly seen enough of the world to say that with some authority.” –Frank Lovece, FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL

“Red Dot on the Ocean portrays the story as triumph over adversity and wayward youth….we learn that he spent part of his childhood in a cult and struggled with ADHD. That condition may have led him to — and helped him thrive in–the adrenaline highs of sailing…. plays like an upbeat, real-life “All Is Lost,” as Mr. Rutherford, with relatively simple sailing equipment, contends with setbacks and the elements.” –By Ben Kenigsberg, NEW YORK TIMES

“It’s an inspiring tale, to be sure, made more so by his eventual triumph that resulted in, among other accolades, SenatorTom Harkin singing his praises before Congress….Rutherford is an engagingly charismatic, charmingly self-deprecating figure, and his amusing running commentary throughout his voyage makes a nice contrast to Robert Redford’s taciturn silence throughout the fictional, similarly-themed All is Lost. His bravery is matched by his generosity—his journey served to raise $120,000 for an organization devoted to teaching sailing to disabled people. His story certainly deserved to be told…” –Frank Scheck, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

“A kid who’s spent formative years in an obscure cult, rehab, juvenile detention, and, ultimately, prison, isn’t likely to grow up to solo-navigate around the Americas in a leaky boat. ButMatt Rutherford did, without stopping, and thanks to the documentary Red Dot on the Ocean, we’re privy to his adventures.” –Daphne Howland, VILLAGE VOICE

“Director Amy Flannery balances the footage of the Rutherford’s voyage with background information about his troubled childhood …. both his childhood and his voyage are compelling….The way that he changed his life 180 degrees after being a street punk feels quite inspirational and poignant. Red Dot on the Ocean does have its fair share of thrills to boot … as Rutherford battles the forces of nature, especially in the rough waters of the North [West] Passage where one tiny error can lead to imminent death.” — Avi Offer, NYC MOVIE GURU

“In a word: inspiring….It deserves to become a classic….I found myself on the edge of my seat, my heart racing….” — Andy Schell, 59-NORTH.COM, contributing editor SAIL magazine

“This is a remarkable film, one of the best sailing documentaries ever produced…. What makes this story so engrossing, though, is that the sailing part is only half the tale…. Matt’s childhood was a nightmare, a brutal combination of drugs, cults, depression, learning disabilities and, ultimately, prison. And his difficult, winding path from troubled kid to bold adventurer and record-setting sailor is truly an inspirational tale that this terrific documentary captures well. Highly recommended…” — Herb McCormick, Senior Editor, CRUISING WORLD MAGAZINE

“Red Dot on the Ocean comes off as thrilling, touching and most of all entertaining….Rutherford himself is a fascinating character who blurs the line between every-man and remarkable individual….To see how he manages his daily life aboard his ship and against the forces of nature makes for a riveting watch.” — Enrrico Wood, Curator, OAXACA FILM FESTIVAL

“Just a really compelling adventure story. It really explored how adventure can change a person’s life.” — Roisin Finlay, Judge, WHY NOT? ADVENTURE FILM FESTIVAL

“A compelling and timely adventure epic. Few films will rival the scope, and none exceed the scale, of this journey. What Matt has accomplished is testament to the capacity for each of us”. — DB Palmer, Judge, WHY NOT? ADVENTURE FILM FESTIVAL