Call it The Young Man and the Sea. After navigating 27,000 miles
of perilous open ocean, braving howling winds, 40-foot seas, fog
and icebergs and surviving a bout of the flu, a barefoot and
bearded Christophe Auguin sailed into Charleston, S.C., last week
with his arms raised in triumph. He had just won the BOC
Challenge, the most arduous of all solo circumnavigational yacht
races, for the second consecutive time.
Considering all that he had been through during 121 days, 17 hours
and 11 minutes on the high seas, Auguin, a 35-year-old
professional sailor who also runs a sports marketing business back
home in France, looked remarkably refreshed. Clad in a T-shirt and
sweatpants, he gleefully sprayed champagne, posed for pictures and
signed autographs after docking Sceta Calberson, the 60-foot sloop
named for his French corporate sponsors.
Throughout the voyage Auguin, who collected $100,000 for his
victory, kept his eye on his boat rather than on the prize. ``It's
important to win,'' he said. ``But what's also important is
sailing with my boat in harmony.''
There has been little harmony for many of his 19 competitors. As
of Monday, five boats had finished, seven were still on the course
and another eight had been knocked out of the race for a variety
of reasons, including dismastings, ripped sails, broken rudders
and snapped rigging. Two sailors required open-ocean rescues. Josh
Hall of Great Britain was plucked off his yacht near Brazil in
October after the boat hit an unidentified submerged object (SI,
Oct. 31, 1994). The boat of Isabelle Autissier, the only woman in
the race, was rocked twice by severe storms during the second leg
of the race. After the second dismasting she had to abandon her
boat off the coast of Australia. For Autissier the loss of her
craft was especially bitter since she had held a commanding
five-and-a-half-day lead before encountering trouble. The worst
tragedy, however, befell Harry Mitchell, a 70-year-old British
sailor who was lost in a storm off the west coast of South
America. With no signal from his boat in almost two months,
Mitchell is presumed dead.
The most difficult part of Auguin's journey was the second half of
the four-stage race, from Sydney to Charleston. For 10 days, in
fog so thick he couldn't see the front of his boat, Auguin had to
sail through an iceberg- riddled stretch of the South Pacific
without functioning radar. Later, while battling the flu and a
fever, he sometimes worked 24 hours straight. The circumstances
left Auguin with only one option. ``I asked for help from Jesus,''
The yachtsman appears to have been at least twice blessed. When
asked what his next project will be, Auguin, whose fiancee,
Veronique Martin, visited him during a stopover in Sydney in
January, said he is looking no further than October. ``I will be
waiting for my new baby,'' he said.
-- Amy Nutt