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Approximately four hours later Skoiern sank. With no way to know whether anyone was looking for him—de Roux had lost the use of his radios in the dismasting—he had bailed two hours out of every three for close to three days to keep his boat afloat. He had also managed to jury-rig a sail, which as Skoiern settled lower and lower in the water, became his only hope of being sighted.
The thought that continually plagued Broadhead, de Roux and everyone else involved in the ordeal was the possibility—even the probability—that Broadhead could be on top of de Roux and still not see him. In fact, that happened. Broadhead, certain that he was in the right place but still unable to see de Roux, went below to radio Johnston, to say he feared he might have sailed past Skoiern. As Broadhead spoke he did pass de Roux, who, having spotted Perseverance, was shooting off parachute flares only 50 yards away and thinking God knows what desperate thoughts. When Broadhead climbed back on deck he saw something white on the horizon. In the first instant he took it to be an iceberg, but happily it was de Roux's jury-rigged sail. Broadhead took de Roux on board and then sailed off for the nearest land, French Polynesia.
"Finding him once was impossible. Finding him twice was a miracle," said Hegeman, patting his log fondly, many weeks later.
Of the four legs of the 27,500 nautical-mile BOC Challenge, the first and last were the easiest, if sailing alone for 7,100 and 5,300 miles, respectively, can ever be called easy. For the first leg, Newport to Cape Town, three routes were practicable. One was a sort of backward S to the roaring forties. Another was south and east to the northwest corner of Africa, and then south along the African coastline. The third was a risky but more direct line to the southeast. That was the route only Jeantot chose. He arrived in Cape Town after 47 days with a huge seven-day lead over the next boat, Reed's Voortrekker.
Although Jeantot never relinquished his lead after Cape Town, he was chased the entire way by Reed, who closed the gap to two days on the second and third legs and to one day on the last, though his boat was outclassed. "She's the fastest and prettiest 50-footer," Reed said of Voortrekker, "but she's also the most uncomfortable. You can't make a racing machine into something comfy, so you live with it."
Reed is known and admired in South Africa for his toughness. He's a hero there, both because his countrymen, who often feel cut off from the world's approval, take their nation's sporting triumphs seriously and because Reed himself is so clearly a likable fellow. Even in the midst of disappointment and physical exhaustion as he arrived in Newport, his good nature surfaced quickly. When the boat that towed him from the finish line to the dock at Goat Island Marina parked him just ahead of Jeantot's Credit Agricole, Reed said, "I'm very honored you're putting me here. It's the only time he's been on my stern."
Reed earned his reputation for toughness in the 1980 OSTAR when, with 2,000 miles to go, he came down off a wave onto something hard, which stove in his hull on the port side. Using his bosun's chair as a patch, and his spinnaker pole as a brace, Reed sailed on, pumping all the while, and finished 18th out of 19. "He's made of epoxy and push," said an admirer in Newport.
Richard Konkolski, a 39-year-old Czech, was the third to reach Newport (finishing seventh in the standings), three days behind Reed. Konkolski's odyssey had begun approximately two years earlier when he began moving his worldly goods, auto trunkload by trunkload, across the Czech border from his home in Bohumin to the port of Szczecin, Poland, where he was allowed to keep his boat, Nike III. Konkolski enjoyed the rare privilege, for a Czech, of unhampered travel because he, too, was a national sports hero, a veteran of 51,500 miles of single-handed sailing, including one previous circumnavigation. Konkolski feared the Czech authorities might suddenly decide to rescind his permission to sail in the BOC race. Come that day, he and his family would be ready.
The day came one week before his scheduled departure for Newport. His travel permit was lifted, but by that time the guards at the Polish border were so accustomed to his comings and goings that they waved him through with only a glance at the still valid papers of his wife and 12-year-old son. The Konkolskis have asked for political asylum, which now is under consideration by the State Department.
The French, too, take their single-handed sailing very seriously. When Jeantot crossed the finish line in Newport an army of French television and news people was on hand to meet him. Hardly had he showered before the Credit Agricole p.r. people, who kept the non-French press at bay with the expert application of sharp French elbows, had whipped Jeantot off to New York for appearances on The CBS Morning News and Nightline.