Coyote: The Mike Plant Story (2017) - full transcript

Spanning the decade from Mike Plant's arrival in professional offshore sailing in the mid 1980's, COYOTE follows Plant's daring spirit as he challenges both Mother Nature - around the world...

[Serene instrumental
music playing]

[Rodger Martin]
When you think about the sea,

about the oceans,

if you put your little finger or your toe in the water here,

that connects to every continent on this earth.

It allows you to go on adventures that you can't do on land.

There aren't stop signs

or you don't come to a place

where there's a fence
that says,"Do not enter."

It's an astounding freedom.

People ask
why I do this stuff. It's...

It'd be really easy to...

explain it today, wouldn't it?

It's gorgeous out here.

[Martin] There are some treacherous
places that people wouldn't believe.

It's fantastic to survive it.

Ocean is such
an incredible color.

It is so deep blue.

You can't believe it's the same ocean that's off of New York City.

God, it's nice
out here, though.

[Martin] There are places
you should not enter,

but you have to find that out for yourself.

[Jason Davis] There are
among us a very few people,

who will risk their lives
in chasing a dream,

or trying to achieve some

amazing objective.

And that's what
makes them magical,

and that's why we need them.

Because they stretch
our imaginations.

And they bring us to places that
we can't possibly go ourselves.

There's nothing
in Mike Plant's world

that he didn't think
he could do.

So you rarely say that about a human being no matter what he does.


toughest guy I've ever met.

[Billy Black] He was America's
greatest solo sailor.

And a pioneer in that field.

More people
had been to the moon

than had sailed
around the world.

[Jason] Who else would we learn
to admire and follow

if we didn't have adventurers,

if we didn't have people that

strive to reach
the top of Mount Everest,

or the bottom of the ocean,
or the North Pole,

or sail around
the world single-handed...

You know,
wouldn't it be a dull place?

It would be really dull.

[Captivating instrumental
music playing]

[reporter 1] The longest
sailboat race of the world

is about to get underway.

A Minnesota man who is going to be part of it,

Mike Plant,
is loading the boat...

[reporter 2] a single
sailor and his boat,

to make it all the way
around the world,

faster than
24 other competitors...

[reporter 3] And you're
all alone out there.

I mean, it's just you and the ocean,
and as we said before,

you're out there by yourself
for eight months.

[Interviewer] Well, Michael,
who are you?

What's your life history
in brief?

Who are you away from?

[Mike] I grew up in Minnesota.

Learned how to sail
on Lake Minnetonka.

[Interviewer] What kind of
business do you run?

[Mike] I've been in
the home-building business.

Building spec homes,

[Interviewer] And how old are you?
I didn't even know that.

[Mike] Thirty-five.

[Interviewer] What makes you enter this race in particular?

Which is probably the toughest
single-handed race there is.

Something you can't go any further than,
except navigation.

Why did you choose
to enter this?

[Mike] Oh, the whole idea
fascinates me.

It's a fantastic challenge.

I just have this gut feeling that I will be very good at this.

[Helen Davis] I fell in love
immediately with Mike Plant.

He was shy, which I liked.

Obviously, his eyes
were beautiful.

We just clicked.

Sometimes it happens in life.

I don't really know that much about Mike Plant's past,

except for hearsay.

I really know him from Newport.

From what I have heard, he was a different person here.

We had adventures,
we had adversities,

we had tears, we had laughter.

You name it,
but we were soulmates.

Mike told me
his dreams immediately.

He told me he watched a movie

about solo-sailing
around the world,

and that he wanted to do it.

[Man narrating] On the 28th of August at noon,

sixteen boats,
captained by men from eight nations

will set sail on a race

that would take them
around the world.

For each, the race stands
as the ultimate challenge

of planning, endurance,

courage, and resourcefulness.

Here, they will be taken
to the limit, and beyond.

Not just to finish,
but to survive.

[Tom Plant] He walked out of that movie theater transformed.

The light bulb
of all light bulbs went off,

and everything clicked.

And everything began
to make sense to him,

that this is his legacy.

You know, he's figured it out.

And I looked him
right in the eye,

and I said,
"Then what are you waiting for?"

This video stuff is just
really dangerous because...

I saw one about four years ago,

and it almost got me killed.

It was a story
about the first BOC race.


After I saw it,
I immediately decided

that it was something
I wanted to do.

Thought if I worked my butt off for a couple of years,

I could come up with $100,000,

and I thought that'd be enough to do it in a secondhand boat.

Well, that idea was
full of holes.

I thought about it a little bit more,
and I thought, "Well,

that's not really
the right approach.

That's not Mike Plant.

If we are gonna do this,
let's go for broke."

So I started talking
to designers and I...

I settled with a designer in Newport,
his name is Rodger Martin,

and I commissioned him
to draw a boat.

Considering the financial rewards he got for it,

he might say something
more like "robbed."

But the fact is that
Rodger drew a beautiful boat.

When we met,
I had a lot of ideas that Mike liked.

A lot of ideas were in common.

And he decided pretty quickly

to go ahead
and have me design it.

We knew within
less than half an hour,

maybe ten minutes,
that we were gonna do this together.

It was ideal.

He had absolutely no money,

and I was leaving my job
to have absolutely no clients.

So we were both completely,
you know...

We didn't have anywhere to go
but up, [chuckles] I guess.

He wasn't a perfect yachtsman, I might say, when he came in.

He had two days'
growth of beard,

and he'd had a couple
of beers at lunch.

It was very soon afterwards,
like the next day,

I'd sketched overnight
or something,

had a drawing
that ended up being,

as is often the case
of preliminary sketch,

you struggle from that
to make it into the boat.

But actually when you design the boat and the boat's built,

you look back and feel,
"Oh, my God,

it was all there
in the first place."

We knew that that's what
we were gonna do.

That wasn't revolutionary
in any means,

it was evolutionary.

I don't think that
that was the time to...

to start taking wild risks
and doing anything crazy.

You can build a boat in your basement with plywood,

but to build a boat
to go around the world...

I was a bit worried that Mike didn't have
enough knowledge of what was in it.

But you could just see he could do it.
It was just that clear.

To build a boat like this,
you've got to first

flesh out the shape of it.

Then you have to make
full-sized templates for it.

A "matrix."

And then fiberglass it outside, and fiberglass it inside.

He did this in ten days.

That's a job that takes
a professional two weeks.

That's the first thing you do
when you're building a boat.

When I saw he could do that,
I realized he could do anything.

[Linda Simmons]
I had a phone call

in the middle
of the afternoon one day

from my mother, who said,

"Mike just called from Newport,

and he has decided
to build a boat,

and sail around the world."

And I said, "Mom.


Build his own boat
and sail around the world?"

I said, "Mike,
how are you going to do that?"

This... 'cause a big shed
and it was dripping water.

"I am just...
I've read about it."

So I don't know.

Maybe he read about
how to do all those things.

[Harry Sherman]
There was a book,

Lofting Made Simple
orMade Easy.

Mike read this book
in a weekend, maybe two,

then he said,

"We're just gonna start
building the boat."

Neither one of us
had ever done it before.

But I just had... And, you know,
Mike was so intuitive,

if he put his mind to something,

he'd just figure out
how to do it.

But he was perpetually
running out of money.

That would be... No,
I don't think that's gonna be a problem.

[Mike] I'll get
a little bit of money,

but never enough
to keep the momentum.

Every couple of months,
the crew would have to be dispersed.

There'd be a month
or two interlapse,

where I had
to raise more money.

And we moved the boat six times

because I was always
looking for the cheaper rent.

It took almost two years.

[Martin] Mike raised money
to buildAirco

by getting in-kind support.

Then he also raised money
from family and friends,

and I think people
really did things for him

for less than the cost of it,

or else, sometimes,
for nothing.

So it was very much
scraped together.

[Helen] You know,
he used to call

and call and call people.

He just didn't stop.

And he didn't take
no for an answer.

If somebody said no,
he'd pick up the phone and call again,

and try and get the next person
in that corporation.

[Mike] There's
a long ways between

a piece of paper
with some lines on it

and the actual boat
that you are able to sail,

and I finally saw it.

It took a long, long time
to build that boat.

About a year
and a half of juggling.

[Martin] Boat was called
Airco Distributor

because they had
put in some money,

certainly not enough for the whole boat,
but a big help.

[Mike] So I was fortunate,
halfway through the project

I was able to secure
some corporate sponsorship.

The name of the boat
becameAirco Distributor.

Very thankful for that.
We wouldn't have made it without them.

[Man] The day of the launch,

it was a cold, wet, rainy,
miserable day.

I remember, it was
a pretty small crowd there.

[Helen] It was a relay
of all kinds of people

that you would never think
would be together.

It was just remarkable
to be there and feel that,

and be part of it
was wonderful.

[Martin] I wasn't joyful,
because I think if any designer,

who is seeing his first boat launched,
tell you he is joyful,

I would hesitate
to believe him.

It's so easy on a boat design to make a factor-of-two mistake.

In other words,

whenever you do a calculation for something that is symmetrical,

you do it for one side,
and then you double it.

But what if you forget to double all the work you've done for that side,

in the weight estimate,
in the buoyancy calculation,

where it will float,
those things.

The factor of mistake
will be a hundred percent.

God bless this boat.
God bless Michael.

And as I sail, near and far,

in seeking
their ultimate challenge,

this day, April 10th,

I... 1982...


I christen the global challenge.

- Yay!
- [All cheering]

Okay, all... [indistinct]

[Martin] You're so relieved,

euphoric with relief,

when you see the boat
go into the water.

That was a moment of great relief to both of us.

I mean, all his work
could have been for nothing.

if it was overweight.

And it was perfectly on weight,

because he built it, you know, exactly as planned.

[Kathy Giblin-Stark] To watch that boat go in the water that day

really created quite a stir.

He became a legitimate contender at that point.

Even though
he did not have the budget

that many
of the European contenders,

particularly the French
competitors had...

He was nothing
if not determined

to get to the start line
of that race.

[Sherman] That was the beginning of his life,
that day.

I mean, it started over.

Mike saw that he actually was gonna make it to the start line.

It wasn't gonna be easy.

He had a lot of money to raise,

but things were
coming together.

The boat was fantastic.

Everything he'd dreamed about

for two or three years before

was coming to fruition.

[Mike] I think I've put together a boat that's very capable.

I am confident that I can drive it for long periods of time.

I think I am gonna
do a good job of it.

This around-the-world
solo yacht race

is so demanding
that in order just to qualify,

every participant
has to sail across

one of the world's
major oceans alone.

And that's the next thing that
Michael Plant is going to do.

Jason Davis
with photographer, Don Ferdell,

Newport, Rhode Island.

[Martin] To qualify
for the BOC Challenge,

each skipper had to do
a transoceanic voyage,

unassisted and unescorted.

Minimum of 2,000 miles.

So Mike got permission to do his qualification to the Azores,

which is, arguably,
it's 1,980 miles away, I think.

That's a good 2,000 miles.

Let's have a look.

- You have enough bananas?
- Huh?

- They're the greenest ones they had.
- Okay.

[Indistinct chatter]

Thanks, buddy.

I'll be thinking of you.

Hi, Gary,
are you orchestrating this?

[Sherman] The day he left to go on this qualifying sail,

Mike had sailed the boat
a little bit out on the bay,

but he'd never gone
single-handed sailing.

And this was a big step for him.


You look beautiful!

So does she.

[Helen] Everybody was just so exhilarated,
and happy and excited,

and I mean, we just...
we all were happy

that he was going off
on his journey,

living his dream.

[Black] I've got a great photograph of
Mike sailing out of Newport that day.

And the boat
is just steaming up wind.

It's just beautiful,
he is in sync with it.

And that boat loved him,
I think.

[Captivating instrumental
music playing]

[man] Here is one of the most exciting times of Mike's life,

and that Mike has finally pulled all this energy together

into a very positive goal.

All of a sudden,
that came to an abrupt halt,

and he is in prison
in the Azores.

[Jason] On a qualifying run
to the Azores,

Mike Plant was arrested
and jailed

on an 11-year-old warrant issued by the Greek authorities.

Details are sketchy,

but Mike's father,
Minneapolis attorney, Frank Plant,

said by phone
from Lisbon, Portugal today,

the charges stem from a charter Mike made in 1975.

He's in the Azores

and they take him in shackles
to Portugal, put him in prison.

The mood in the team
after Mike was arrested

was just complete crush.


All the steam
was taken out of it.

We didn't know what was
going to happen from there.

We had no idea.
Only Mike knew what was going on really.

But what we knew is that his...

his race was in jeopardy,

and he was incarcerated.

And we weren't exactly sure why.

[Ominous instrumental
music playing]

[Mary] Mike ended up by doing what he'd always wanted to do.

I think he talked about
sailing around the world

long before he did it.

[Mike] This is
where it all began.

I did live here
for a long time.

As a kid,
we used to sail a lot from right here.

And we had good instruction.

We learned how to sail a boat, how to move a boat,

how to feel the boat,

and how to get
the most from it.

When he was two,

he was bringing everything up
to his eyes.

So down we went
to get the eyes checked,

and sure enough,
he was legally blind.

And then he got little glasses.
Cute little glasses.

[Simmons] I think he was angry,
and I don't blame him,

to be stuck
with Coke-bottle glasses.

I don't remember
him being teased.

But I am just thinking
he must have been,

because he was
one of the only kids

that had these
really thick glasses.

[Mary] When Mike was
eight or nine,

he took to the water,

sailing on Lake Minnetonka.

The yacht club was just a short distance away from the house.

And that's where
they took sailing lessons.

He said, in later years,
when he was sailing the bigger boats,

that a lot of what he'd learned
or did in the bigger boats,

he'd learned sailing
on Lake Minnetonka.

[Frank] He just loved
to sail so much

that rather than just
sailing in the races

and the sailing schools,

as the others pretty much did,

he would be out there, all morning,
all afternoon, by himself.

And he generally
was a pretty good kid.

I mean, as a young boy.

But when he got older,
he just kind of catered to trouble.

[Julia Plant] He was always
the black sheep.

He just couldn't
stand authority.

Not in his teens did we see
anything positive with Mike.

It just kept snowballing.

[Tom] It's like
a roller coaster ride.

I think he was 13,
and he decided to take out the family car,

and drive it around town.

And he totaled it.

He kind of went crazy.

I mean, he just was doing
one thing right after the next.

I mean, he was
arrested by every police

in the entire
Minneapolis kind of area.

So he must have gotten
some sense

that he could be a bad boy
and get away with it

somewhere along the line.

[Mary] That was Mike.

He needed an outlet.

[Man] Outward Bound
does seek to provide

a crucible of experience

which will catalyze
one's personal growth.

There is, however...

[Tom] The whole point
of Outward Bound

is it truly does push you to what you think your limits are,

and then beyond.

And if you actually go beyond,

you know, that's kind of, you know,
an eye-opening experience.

No surprise why Mike flourished.

'Cause that was
right up his alley.

[Mary] It was good for Mike. I think he got a lot out of it.

[Tom] I think Outward Bound
probably meant

more than I even
realized for him,

because it was sort of
getting him ready

for the next life adventure,

and probably gave him
and taught him some skills

that he needed at some point,

whether sailing
around the world

or walking through
South America.

[Simmons] Mike left one night
after dinner.

And he said,
"I am leaving right now to go to South America."

And I thought, "This can't be."

And it was raining.

But it was also night.

On foot.

I have no idea

how he even got
as far as Mexico.

[Mike] I went down to South America when I was 19.

I'd been working
at the Outward Bound school.

Of course, they teach,
as we all know, survival skills.

I always felt that it was
a little bit too structured

to really represent
a survival situation,

and I went down to South America to create that.

I basically traveled
for nine months, hitchhiking.

[Julia] He discovered, while he was in South America,

this brand-new thing for him
and for many of his friends,


He realized,
after thinking about it,

"Well, I know
how I can capitalize on it.

I can go back and buy cocaine

and bring it back
into this country.

And I'll make
a lot of money that way."

[Sherman] When he went
to South America,

he had some notions about doing some illegal deals, smuggling.

He didn't want to be
a drug smuggler per se,

but he might just like
the adventure, like the thrill,

of being on the edge
of getting caught.

If there was a way
he could do this,

and get the money he needed...

He always was
looking down the road

at what he wanted to do next.

That was a thing about Mike.

His whole mission
was to make enough money

to buy a secondhand
sailing boat.

And so all the selling
of the cocaine,

he had a sufficient amount

that he could buy
the secondhand boat.

He saw advertised in one of the yachting magazines

this small boat
that he really liked a lot,

but it was in Greece.

[Sherman] Mike and I met
in Greece many years ago,

and I fell in love
with the place.

You could live for nothing.

The dollar was really strong.

Two people go out
and have a full-blown meal

for a dollar and a half.

I don't know why he came
to Spetses specifically,

but I think he came to look
at the Misselthrush.

This was the boat that eventually he ended up buying.

[Mary] He had a boat
in the Greek Islands.

His idea was to charter people from one island to the next.

[Tom] He had found a wonderful life sailing in Greece.

Transporting people
back and forth,

and chartering the boat,

and, you know,
pretty glamorous, right?

Not being there, not seeing it,

you know, you hear the stories
and you think, "Man... You know,

he always does this fun stuff."

[Sherman] What he was
telling people,

and what he was
ultimately going to do

was, of course,
two different things.

He'd hooked up
with three people in Rhodes.

They hire him to take theMisselthrush over to Turkey,

and these people bought
a few kilos of hash.

And then Mike sailed them
back to Rhodes.

They offered to pay him,
but Mike said,

"No, I don't want cash.

I want five kilos of hash."

So they gave him
five kilos of hash.

And Mike was left behind on the
Misselthrush in Rhodes.

A few days go by,

Mike's sitting on the boat,

and he hears this
clattering on deck.

It's the Greek police.

Somehow, they didn't
find Mike's stash.

They take away his passport,

and they told him he wasn't allowed to leave the harbor,

and they would be
keeping an eye on him.

As soon as it got dark,

Mike snuck out
of Rhodes Harbor,

turned north,
and sailed into Spetses.

And we're standing outside,

Mike's just gotten
to telling me the story,

and I said, "Mike, you know,
they're gonna look for you everywhere."

And I am looking
over his shoulder,

and I saw around
the far corner,

about four or five motorcycles

coming with Greek police in uniform out on the bikes.

And my heart just
comes into my mouth.

I don't think
that it really phased him.

I think he just wanted
to get the hell out of there,

because he knew
if he got caught,

he would do 20 to 30 years
in a Greek prison.

He took off into the hills,

shirtless, shoeless, penniless.


That was the last time
I saw Mike for seven years.

[Tom] And that's where the fictional character starts kicking in.

We all live
by certain guidelines.

He had very different guidelines,
different rules.

And that can bring
a lot of trouble

and a lot of problems,

but you could just sense
that he was destined

to do something really special.

[Reporter] Today, the Greeks
asked the Portuguese

to hold Mike Plant
for another 25 days,

while they prepare
a request for extradition.

Plant's mother Mary
and father Frank,

went to the prison
in Lisbon this morning

to tell their son the bad news.

Oh, God, that was tough.

And I'll tell you,
that was really, I...

I cried and I cried and I cried.

He was a good kid, I mean,

I know people say,
"How could you say that?"

Well, he was.

Okay, he did things
he probably shouldn't do,

but that's the way
the laddie feels sometimes.

It turned out there was
an outstanding warrant

for him on Interpol.

They found him guilty
in absentia of smuggling,

even though they never
ever found any drugs.

Well, their guess is,
because he fled,

as far as they were concerned,

that was an admission of guilt.

The boat was in the Azores,
left basically unattended.

So they flew a guy over there,

ended up getting on the boat
and looking after it,

and eventually sailing the boat back to the States for Mike.

[Reporter] Today,
Mike Plant's father Frank spoke to us by phone

from Lisbon, Portugal.

He said they've waited for two weeks and no news is good news.

[Frank] It was up to the Greek authorities to put in papers,

asking for Mike's
transfer decrees.

And they didn't do that.

I think today is...
We're assured it was the last day they had to do it.

So Mike should be released
tomorrow morning.

[Helen] Mike's parents
went over to Portugal.

They had an associate
with Papandreou, I believe,

and it was actually
his mistress.

[Sherman] The rumor I heard was that whoever was responsible

for collecting
the information in Greece

to ship to Interpol

was a Minnesotan woman

that was maybe married
to some political or a minister.

And she had access to the files.

And the files were on the desk.

And she took his file,

which was just a little bit down,
you know,

and she put it on the bottom.

The documents that were
supposed to be sent to Interpol

were put under her mattress

until the 30-day period went by,

and they had to release Mike.

[Reporter] Mike says he will immediately resume preparations

for the single-handed
Round the World yacht race,

which begins
on August the 30th.

[Helen] He let everybody know
he would be coming home,

and he called and said,
"I will arrive at Providence airport,"

which is approximately
23 miles from Jamestown.

So, of course,
I went up to the airport and I was waiting,

and waiting and waiting,
and waiting.

And finally I said,
"Did this flight come in from New York?"

And they said,
"Oh, absolutely."

I said,
"Oh, God, I missed him."

I mean, he'd just come from...
I mean...

He didn't even wait around
to see if I was there.

He walked home from Providence

'cause he was
so happy to be free.

That incarceration

even motivated him more
to be free on the sea.

[Reporter] How do you
feel about things?

your physical condition,

your psychological condition, the boat's condition.

[Mike] Last couple of weeks
have been really...

real hectic.

I feel little bit run down,
but I will catch up.

I'll catch up on it.

We've accomplished
a hell of a lot in two weeks.

I mean...

Boat looks good.

- [Interviewer] Feel good about it? Confident?
- Hmm. Hmm.

He was clearly relieved,

and desperately wanted
to get back on track,

make up for some lost time,

and get to the start line.

The clock was ticking.

[Jason] Mike Plant is
a survivor anyway.

He could survive
a murder challenge.

'Cause he just is one of these people that survives this kind of thing.

Because people come
and help him.

He engendered that kind
of response in people.

"How can I help this guy?"

I've always felt that.
"How can I help you?"

And we helped him
by publicizing his efforts.

It's important
that they make sure

that everything aboard that boat
works perfectly

before the race begins,

not only to give Mike Plant
a chance of winning,

but to make sure
that he survives

six or seven months
alone at sea.

Jason Davis, Channel 5,
Eyewitness News,

Newport, Rhode Island.

[Martin] He just came
straight back at full steam.

You couldn't tell
he'd left the room.

He was a lot lighter.

But he was very much the same drive to get it finished.

[Mike] What are we gonna do
about the tail ride?

We can't do
a damn thing about it.

It's disgusting, I'm pissed off.

- Look at this fucking mainsail.
- [Indistinct chatter]

Fucking leeches still falling off of it.
Son of a bitch.

[Herb McCorrmick]
People have been sailing around the world for centuries.

But sailing around
the world alone

is a whole different story.

In 1967, Sir Francis Chichester,
a famous British aviator,

sailed all the way
around the world,

stopping only once
in Australia.

[Reporter 1] The crowds are now
lining the barriers,

perhaps six or seven...

[reporter 2] This is a moment
I shall never, never forget.

Sir Francis Chichester
andGipsy Moth are home.

And listen to the welcome
they are giving him

from these ships
out here in Plymouth Harbor.

Harking back to the great days
of the British Empire

when a lone British adventurer went off and conquered the world,

and Chichester did that.

Then a couple of years later,

the first Round the World race,

Round the World race happened.

The Golden Globe race
was a nonstop race.

And the idea was, you had
to sail around the world,

without assistance,
without stopping.

Two stars of it were
French and English,

Robin Knox-Johnston,

who was a British
merchant mariner,

and Bernard Moitessier,

who was this sort of
lyrical Frenchman.

Moitessier got down
around Cape Horn

and sailed three-quarters
of the way around the world

and decided that the whole
competitive aspect of it

just went against his soul.

So he decided
to continue onward

to an epic voyage
in which he sailed nonstop,

one and a half times
around the world.

Moitessier did not finish
that first race,

but he wrote a book about it
calledThe Long Way.

And that book inspired
a whole generation

of young French sailors
to go out

and try to emulate Moitessier.

And the French really,
very, very quickly became

the dominant players in the sport of single-handed sailing.

It was kind of like the X Games,

before the X Games really
even happened, you know.

It was one of the first
extreme sports.

It was a sport that you really had to have your wits about you.

And then there wasn't
another one

until the 1982-1983
BOC Challenge,

which started and finished
in Newport, Rhode Island.

[Reporter] On the foggy
morning of May 9th,

at 11 minutes past 7:00,

Philippe Jeantot sails across the finish line into Newport Harbor.

First in Class I,

first in all four legs,

and a full ten days faster

than anyone has
ever done it before.

[McCormick] First BOC Challenge was
won by a guy named Philippe Jeantot.

He was the epitome of what Moitessier had started,

this young French sailor
who was very hungry

and this rugged handsome dude.

He was the one guy who would actually build a boat

purposely for the race.

Most of the guys showed up with double-ended cruising boats

that had been modified
for racing.

But Jeantot showed up in a boat that had no real interior

except for
a central navigation station.

It had twin rudders,
it had water balance,

completely stripped out
of any kind of amenities,

or luxuries,
or anything of that sort.

It was just meant
for one person

to sail the boat
as efficiently as possible.

[Jason] Twenty-five men will sail from here tomorrow afternoon

on the longest
and surely the most dangerous

sailboat race ever devised.

Around February
or March next year,

the winner will sail back
into Newport Harbor

to collect the grand-prize money, $15,000.

This is not a race
for the money.

[McCormick] By 1986 and 1987,

it was certainly a much more competitive field.

At that point, there were
two classes in the race.

Class I was
for boats 50 to 60 feet,

and Class II was
for boats 40 to 50 feet.

I think he would have
wanted to enter Class I,

but he didn't have the money
or the support to do that,

so it was a smart move for Mike to go in the 50-foot class.

Mike Plant's PR story was,

a ruffian, who grew up sailing
on the lakes of Minnesota,

who really knew his stuff

but perhaps didn't have
the level of sophistication,

or a polished campaign that some of his competitors had.

We have some new sails
that we have never had before

that we have to get up and...

There's a lot of things
to do today,

and a lot of things
to do tomorrow.

[Interviewer] Can you do it
all in time, Mike?

Oh, yeah.

So here was a guy
who was up against the odds,

up against some of the finest single-handed sailors in the world,

but he was completely determined
and committed to it,

and he was gonna pull it off.

He was gonna be the guy
from America who did it.

[Read] Back in the mid '80s
is when I first met him.

And here he is, a local,

he could help put our company
on the map, in a way.

The rest is kind of history.

All of a sudden,
we were big boat sailmakers.

He was a game changer,

in essence, a revolutionary
here in this country,

because not only was he gonna go sail single-handed around the world,

he was gonna go take
on the mighty French,

the people who were completely
dominant in the arena.

So I had this incredible
respect level for the guy

just for what
he was trying to do.

[Helen] I think all of the sailors have a hero.

Mike's hero was Jacques de Roux,
and he was a Frenchman,

and he had already sailed
around the world.

[Jason] The French competitors,
they were the ultimate adventurers.

And they were well-supported
by insurance companies,

financial groups,
and things like that.

So they had tons of money.

They didn't have to get on the phone and beg for funds.

So they could focus
on their well-equipped boats,

and just sail,
and do the best they can.

[Chuckles] Here's Mike Plant,

has no money,

working up to the last minute,

things are not done,
things are not finished.

He's got to sail away
with huge debts facing him,

and he is alone,

and he has pretty poor equipment
by their standards.

Let me ask you first

how you feel about your son going around the world alone in a boat.

Are you confident
that he can do it?

[Frank] Oh, yes,
I have absolute confidence in his ability.

He has been doing so many things by himself,
all his life.

He has shown great ability.

- So he is gonna win?
- Come out alive.

Come out alive or win?

- Hopefully win.
- [Mary] Both.

[Interviewer] Mrs. Plant, what
would you say that your son has,

that makes him do this
kind of thing?

Michael has always
done something

that's had
a big challenge to it,

and I think this is,
as he has called it,

the ultimate challenge
in his life,

and I just have
all the confidence in the world

he is gonna do it and win.

Have you ever tried
to talk him out of it?

Well, not really.

I couldn't believe it
three years ago when he told us

this is what he was
thinking of doing,

and I thought, "August 30th,
1986 is a long ways away,

times will change,

he may change his mind."

But here it is,
almost the day they start the race,

and I just... No, I didn't think
I could ever talk him out of it.

[Helen] The day of the start,

it was just a mad scurry
of everything at the dock,

including all the other racers.

There was no calm.

None whatsoever.

And I think Mike just thought,

"Please get me out of here

so I can relax at sea."

[Frank] Seekers have
to have some goal that's

worth every ounce
of their energy.

And I am terribly happy

that Mike had really
found such a goal.

[Mike] It was pretty
exciting because,

God, you know, here it was, finally starting.

I was dead tired, I hadn't--

It felt like
I hadn't slept in a month.

This is when it dawned on me that things had really started,

and we were on our way
to Cape Town.

[Jason] Goodbye, Michael,
and good luck!

Goodbye. Good luck!

We won't see Mike Plant now

until he arrives
in Cape Town, South Africa.

The fastest time to get there
is about 47 days.

That's gonna be at least six weeks before he gets there.

Otherwise, he will be back in Newport,
Rhode Island next spring,

hopefully, the winner of this solo Round the World yacht race.

Jason Davis, Channel 5,
Eyewitness News,

Newport, Rhode Island.

[Captivating instrumental
music playing]

[Mike] That's very much a race.
Very competitive.

That's the way it should be.

I'm all in favor of making it as competitive as it'll naturally get, yeah.

I didn't build this boat
just to get around.

I've got almost three years' time and work and money into this project.

If I wanted to get around,
I'd do it in a 44-foot swan or something.

[Reporter] Mike Plant
took on an early lead

as the 25 ocean greyhounds

raced out of Newport
on Saturday afternoon.

His latest position
puts him first in his class

and fourth overall.

At 36 degrees
six minutes north,

and 63 degrees 36 minutes west,

he is 84,900 miles
out into the Atlantic.

The weather is bad.

The threat of a full-blown
hurricane has passed,

but the fleet
are in a tropical depression,

and are beating against
30-knot headwinds.

Mike got into a very interesting race with Jacques de Roux.

Jacques de Roux was smart,
he was very, very tough,

very skilled
and polished as a navigator.

Nobody was playing the game
as hard as those two guys.

I think their bond was more of a competitive respect for one another,

more than real friendship,
per se.

For Mike, that was probably
more important, anyway.

He didn't need a lot of friends.

He was out there for the competition,
not to make buddies.

They were highly competitive
with each other

because they were 50-footers,
first and second, first and second.

[Reporter] Mike Plant told a radio operator on the East Coast

that he was experiencing
beautiful warm weather.

He said he would be
even closer to Cape Town

if he hadn't made a tactical error late last week

when he almost ran out of wind.

"A mechanical problem
with a sail-reaping system

has been repaired using,"
Plant says,

"sailing wire, chewing gum,
and spit."

First leg of the race,

Jacques pretty much
showed Mike his transom

on the way down
to South Africa.

[Reporter] Mike Plant said his boat performed flawlessly,

but he just couldn't catch up
to take first-place honors.

[Mike] I only got close
to Jacques a couple of times,

I think it was three times,

three or four times I got
within 70 or 100 miles of him.

And it was only for a day.

[Laughs] And then he was gone.

And I mean, he just...

God, he would just leave me.

I go into a hole,

and it would take me
a day and a half,

two days to get out,

and he'd just be gone.

And I'd catch back up to him,

and same thing would happen.

It happened three times.


[interviewer] But going
into the second leg,

you got locked
in heavier conditions.

You're pretty confident.
Your boat is very sturdy.

- It's very solid.
- Yeah.

You got heavy stuff
going on down there.

- Yeah.
- So...

I'm not worried
about the boat at all.

[Man] So you figure you'll be
in first in the next leg?

[Mike] That's where
I'd put my money.

If I were a betting man,
that's where I'd put my money.


Yeah, oh, yeah,
we are gonna go like hell next time.

In an unusual sort of way,

I do think Mike and Jacques
were like brothers.

I do have a visual of the two of them sitting at a cookout,

shortly before the restart
in Cape Town,

just the two of them talking quietly to each other.

And I thought to myself,

here are two guys
who are arch competitors.

And yet, I think they have
a lot more to share

than they do have something
that divides them.

[Interviewer] How was the race?

All the way, I'm a very...

From the minute we left Newport till the day we got here... [laughs]

[reporter] Mike Plant says his boat will be even better on the next leg

across the stormy
Southern Ocean

which stretches
nearly 7,000 miles

from Cape Town
to Sydney, Australia.

Survive the journey,
you'll be in Sydney just before Christmas.

[McCormick] What happened
in the second leg of that race was truly tragic.

Jacques de Roux left
Cape Town, South Africa,

bound for the second leg,
which was in Sydney, Australia.

Two weeks before
it would have been the finish,

and Jacques de Roux
was missing.

[McCormick] The boats
all had tracking devices

and all of a sudden,
Jacques De Roux's boat

started tracking erratically.

Jacques de Roux was lost.

I think at that point,
they didn't know what happened to him.

Because they can watch him
with the transponder,

and watch the boat move, six, seven, eight, ten,
twelve knots,

and then suddenly slow down
and do one knot,

one and a half knots
in the other direction.

That is a nasty sign.

It's very clear that
something is seriously wrong.

Jacques is not perfect.

So I regret,
this means that he probably

fell off about
a day and a half ago.

It's our nearest guess.

So that is the only information
we have at the moment.

They inspected the boat,

there was a half-eaten sandwich down below.

Something had happened that caused him to rush on deck

without putting on
his safety harness,

without hooking on
to the deck with a tether,

and he went over the side.

That's one of
the greatest risks,

you know,
if you do fall over the side,

there is nobody on that boat
to come back and pick you up.

[Mike] I am in first place now.

First place in my class,
it's only because of...

the man who was ahead of me
has disappeared,

he was washed overboard,
the day out of Sydney.

It's very tragic.

[Solemn instrumental
music playing]

[Helen] When Mike found out that Jacques de Roux was lost at sea,

he was not going
to come to Sydney.

He was just going to continue
sailing around the world.

He finally did come in,

and he was devastated
and heartbroken.

Yet I know he got through that

because he knew Jacques de Roux would want him to.

[Reporter] It means Mike Plant
has lost his friend

and his closest competitor.

He was first in his class
to arrive in Sydney,

but he says it's a hollow victory.

Of course, I was upset,

and I had reverences
for this man.

I did not fear for Mike at all.

People asked me,
"Aren't you afraid?"

And I said, "I'm not afraid."

I couldn't let that fear
take over my life.

Was there
a little bit of fear? Yes.

But I believed he would be fine.

[Reporter] More than halfway through the race and two legs to go.

Mike Plant and his yacht,
Airco Distributor,

are running
in sixth place overall,

and first in their class.

On Sunday afternoon
at 3:00, Sydney time,

they'll set out from Sydney Harbor for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This is the longest
and the most dangerous leg,

over 8,000 miles
dodging icebergs

and the treacherous Cape Horn.

[McCormick] The hardest part of that trip was still ahead of him.

He still had
to round Cape Horn,

he still had to go up
the North Atlantic,

he still had half the world
to sail in front of him.

This is really the reason
these guys go down there.

This is the point where you get tested as a sailor and a seaman.

[Mike] As long as
I can remember,

I wanted to see the Southern Ocean and the 40-foot seas

and the strong winds that dominate that part of the world.

That was the real
excitement to me,

and the race was just the incentive to put it together.

[McCormick] Once you get
to 40 degrees south,

you're in
the infamous roaring forties,

and then
the screaming fifties.

You're in the Southern Ocean.

You are in a part of the world

where the winds go unimpeded around the bottom of the planet.

Tremendously wild
and wicked seas.

Not unusual to have
40 to 50 knots of winds,

and 40-, 50-foot seas,
when you get down there.

[Mike] Got all the weather blowing straight off of the ice caps.

Got the wind and the weather coming straight off of Antarctica.

Nothing to break it down,
nothing to warm it up.

[Read] I can tell you,
it ain't pretty sometimes.

And it's not necessarily the wind that gets you,
it's the waves.

It's like getting
on the highway

and standing up
on the roof of your car,

and you're going
50 miles an hour,

and it's pouring rain
and freezing cold,

and you got your T-shirt on,
you know,

and you're trying to stand
on the hood of your car.

Going over every big pothole
you can imagine.

So that's...
Does that sound like fun to you?

And I would ask him about it.

And he'd kind of
shrug it off, like,

"It's what I do,
it's really no big deal."

Well, after being there,
it's a big deal.

And that's just
the type of guy he was.

He was like, "Nah,
piece of cake, I got that."

The farther south you go,

the shorter distance
you have to sail.

The trick there is,
the farther south you go,

the more chance
you have of an iceberg

that's broken off and is coming off from Antarctica.

You don't want to go so far
that you encounter the ice,

but you need to stay
in the big heavy breeze,

because that's where all your competitors are going to be.

[Mike] We all had a period
of three or four days

where we had ice
almost constantly in view.

And for three or four days,

you're literally
at the edge of your chair.

It's like driving your car
at a hundred miles an hour

with your eyes closed.

It's that tense.

[McCormick] Granddaddy
of them all, of course,

is Cape Horn, 56 degrees south.

[Martin] That's the only place
on Earth

where the water goes
around the world unimpeded.

And if that has wind against it,

or even without wind against it,
wind behind it,

it can produce seas
that are 100 feet high,

seas that will break
ships in half.

[Mike] I rounded the Horn
at 12:00 noon exactly.

And of course,
the Horn, you know, it has this mystique about it,

so you are gonna
find edge, anyhow,

because you're waiting
for something wild to happen.

It's quite an experience.

It was so much wind,

seventy knots of wind is enough,
I found out,

to haul the boat over.

It was a real fight
to get around.

You really just push everything to the maximum,

you just take it
right to the limit.

And in this case, it paid off.

I made it through.

It's pretty exciting because you're back in the south Atlantic Ocean,

and you're headed north.

It's a wonderful feeling.

[Reporter] Mike Plant is running first in his class,

and the last report was only 150 miles from Rio de Janerio.

After resting there
for a few weeks,

they will set out again
on the final leg

to Newport, Rhode Island,
and home.

[Mike] I think everybody
was real happy to get the race back underway.

It was a pretty
straightforward race,

that last leg.

Never had any periods
of no air or light winds.

Went right through.

[Martin] It's an extraordinary
thing to do.

He'd never built a boat before.

Here, he chooses a designer
that could be a big mistake,

he chooses a challenge
that could be beyond him,

and he built the boat,

every part of it, every detail,

he was intimately
involved with.

And then he tries to see
if it will work.

Takes it all the way
around the world,

and it works perfectly for him.

[Jason] Mike Plant and his 50-foot yacht,
Airco Distributor,

is presently averaging
over nine knots.

At that speed, he should arrive in Newport, Rhode Island,

on Thursday or Friday.

First in their class,

and the first American team
to cross the finish line.

[Mike] Well, my actual finish
was on a Saturday.

Middle of the day.
Beautiful breeze.

And because it was a Saturday,

and because it was
the first nice day of spring,

everybody came out
to see the boat finish.

They made it absolutely
the best day in my life.

Mike! Whoo!

[Reporter] What it proves
is that there are people

with a sense of adventure,

and with enough belief
in themselves

to take the risks,

to prove they can step out

and take themselves
a little further.

I've been searching those things out all my whole life.

[Helen] It wasn't the race,
it was the adventure.

Mike Plant loved adventure,

and the challenge to himself.

To say, "I did it.

I did it."

[All cheering]

[indistinct chatter]

[Martin] There was a mob
to the dock.

Everybody trying
to get in close,

give him a kiss,
or shake his hand,

or take his picture.

It was wonderful.

And Mike was really proud.

Mike was psyched, you know.

Mike had fulfilled his dream.

He'd showed up in Newport,
four years earlier and...

you know, didn't have a boat,
didn't have a program, didn't have

any sponsorship,
didn't have really a clue

as to how any of this
was going to unfold for him,

and then four years later,
he's come back and won the bloody race.

Really, the first American ever to have any success

in that kind of
international arena and that discipline of sailing.

I think that's when
he knew that...

that this was
kind of his calling,

this is what he wanted to do.

I think he really legitimized
himself at that point.

He put himself on the map
with that race,

and that became
the key to his ability

to procure more sponsorship
going forward.

[McCormick] Despite what
he'd gone through in Sydney,

and despite what had happened
to Jacques de Roux,

it gave him the incentive
to want to continue on

and do what
the French would do,

and to take it
to another level,

which is exactly what he did.

This race represents the dreams and desires of all sailors,

to challenge themselves
to the best of their abilities

through the ultimate test
of man and machine.

I want to thank everyone

who has helped me
to win this race.

Without their support,
I wouldn't be here now.

I hope to see everybody,
all of you,

in four years.

I'll be back.

[Audience applauding
and cheering]

[man] And finally,

winner of Class I,

and a $15,000 check,

yet again, Philippe Jeantot,

France, Credit Agricole III.

Big five is still Class I.

Jeantot was still the hero
of that race, you know.

The guy who finishes first
in the big boat class,

he is still the top dog,
you know.

He is still the alpha dog.

[Helen] Mike wanted to go to sea to become one with himself,

to really understand
who Mike Plant was.

And come to terms
with some demons,

and come to fruition with joyous things happening in his life.

And that was a joy.

[Martin] He was living
in Jamestown,

and I thought, well, this guy
just raced around the world,

you know,
he's won his first prize,

he's got some money for it,
not enough to cover any of the costs.

I thought, well,
he'll be taking it easy.

I went around to his house,
and I couldn't find him.

I looked around the back,

and he is building a shed.

He is a consummate builder.

He has to be making something,

and it's really what
Mike's character was about.

[Interviewer] That's Mike Plant,
who is a world-class

and championship yachtsman.

So how much did you win by? I mean,
what was the winning margin?

[Mike] Four and a half days.

[Interviewer] Are you gonna be
back to defend?

[Mike] Yeah, we have plans
to build another boat,

Class I boat.

We want to build a 60-footer.

[Interviewer] So you're gonna
step up into what, Class I?

[Mike] Yeah, exactly.

And, well, we're gonna do
a race before the next BOC.

The next BOC is 1990.

We are gonna do a race in 1989,

which starts out at France,

and is basically
the same course,

just a little bit different.

This race out of France
doesn't make any stops.

It's around the world, nonstop.

Terrific. I love it.

The Globe Challenge, which, I think,
is now called the Vendee Globe,

is a nonstop single-handed race
around the world.

Round the Island race,
and the island's Antarctica.

[McCormick] The Vendee Globe was the brainchild of Philippe Jeantot.

Jeantot decided that
the ultimate challenge

would be a nonstop race

that began
and finished in France.

That you cannot stop,
you cannot get assistance,

and once again,
taking something

that had already
been pretty extreme,

and taking it to another level.

That was it.

That was the creme de la creme
of all race.

And he wanted to do it.

[Reporter] For almost two years,
Mike Plant scratched along,

building his own boat
on a shoestring.

Donations dribbled in at a rate just sufficient to build
a bare-bones boat

that he hoped
to sail around the world.

[Interviewer] You could have
taken the easy way out,

you could have rested
on your laurels

and gone back
to your building business.

Got married,
raise a couple of kids.

Christ, I never thought
of any of those things.

No, this is...

This is gonna be exciting.

This is a great race.

I just thought
it was really important

to be included in this first group of circumnavigators.

It really is
a first-time event.

Are you gonna win?

[Mike] I've always thought
my chances were pretty good.

Mike Plant had little
or no money

when he decided
to construct a boat

and enter the race.

However, with the help
of some influential

and very generous people
in Minnesota,

he did get his boat built.

And now, he says,
with the aid of some new sponsors

that have just come onboard,

he will make it
to the start line in France

on November the 26th.

[Martin] Duracell was
a perfect match.

They had a board at the time
that thought this would show

independence of thinking,

and durability,
and that sort of thing.

Duracell called me.

We had a good chat.
I told them a little bit about my background,

and he said, "Well,
Mike says you're the person."

I worked very closely
with the marketing

and advertising people
at Duracell.

From the start,
right through to the finish.

This is a great moment,

and to be able to share it with everyone who's here this morning

makes it really, much more real.

It's much more...

much more real.

[Giblin-Stark] The money
that they invested

perhaps was a relative drop
in the bucket

when you're looking
at major corporations,

major sponsorships,

whether it's NASCAR
or professional sports.

But here you have this guy
who sat at the table,

who really was not
polished or smooth,

but he put his heart
on the table

and he said,
"You need to believe in me,

because I do believe
in myself."

[Phil] O' Lord and Neptune,

bless this ship,

and he who sails in her.

Thanks thee to the designer
and those who built her.

May she run strong,

blithely, swiftly,

round the Southern Ocean

and home again, a winner.

- [Woman] Yeah!
- [All cheering]

[reporter] The dream has come true for 38-year-old Mike Plant.

The race
called the Globe Challenge, will begin on November the 4th

at Les Sables d'Olonne,
in the west of France.

It'll end nearly six months later at the same place

after circumnavigating
the world.

- Good luck, Mike. See you in France.
- Thanks.

- You're gonna do this. Great.
- Yeah.

[Reporter] Mike Plant will be sailing a bare-bones homemade boat

in this race called
the Globe Challenge.

Because of that,
he is considered the underdog at the start,

but although he is competing

against the world's finest
long-distance yachtsmen,

he's not a long shot.

Last time he raced like this,
he won his class.

[Speaking French]

[Giblin-Stark] It was nothing
like we'd ever seen here.

Just a crush of media
from all over Europe,

and all of these guys
were heroes.

They were celebrities.

And Mike was right there
with them.

[Man] You have gone into debt,

you have beaten your brains out for a year and a half.

You're already-- You still owe many people money,

I know that. That's a fact.

And there's no prize money.

People say to me, "Why does
Mike Plant do it, then?

Why does he risk his life
to go around the world alone

and take all that on too?"

I wish people would quit
asking me that. [Laughs]

I still don't have an answer.

[Helen] The atmosphere
is purely electric.

You can feel it vibrating,
I mean, this is phenomenal.

[Jason] Just by making it here
to the starting line,

these men have
proved themselves

to be the most resourceful,

and bravest of their kind.

But the first one
back here next March

will earn the undisputed title,

the finest solo sailor
in the world.

[Indistinct radio chatter]

[McCormick] Mike was in
the upper half of the fleet,

but he wasn't challenging
for the lead.

His boat frankly
wasn't quite as quick

as some of the
French rocket ships.

He was playing with
a more conservative weapon,

but he was respectable,
he was hanging in there.

[Giblin-Stark] Mike and I
didn't speak daily.

He was very happy being
on his own out there, so...

he would talk if he had to.

It was rare
that he'd call in on the radio

and just want to chat.

It did happen occasionally.

Here he was,
thousands of miles away,

but he was so stoic.

You knew that if he called in

or he shared
something with you,

he really must be suffering,
or he must be in a bad way.

[Mike] ...ten more good days.

I really have been trying
to punish everything

more than normal.

Not trying
to break things, but...


being overly cautious.

[McCormick] When you're
single-handed sailing,

you've got to do everything.

You've got to be the navigator,

you've got to be the cook,

you've got to be the mechanic,

you've got to find
some time to get rest.

You got to be the forecaster,
you got to be the weatherman.

For Mike, that was really
an appealing thing,

that he didn't have to rely
on anybody else.

He had all these
various disciplines

that were rolled
into this one pursuit.

If he fucked up,
it was because he fucked up, you know.

And if he just succeeded,
it's 'cause he succeeded.

And there was no sort
of middle ground there.

Once in the Southern Ocean,

Mike had a five-dollar
rigging component fail,

and he couldn't continue on
where the rigging went slack.

The mast was gonna
go over the side.

If the mast went over the side
in the Southern Ocean,

he was in deep, deep trouble.

So he pulled into a little island called Campbell Island,

which is off the south coast
of New Zealand.

Once he got in there,

his boat started
to drag anchor.

I guess it was pretty windy in there and it was a little cold.

It wasn't very protected, it wasn't really an anchorage.

But there were a bunch
of New Zealand meteorologists

who had stationed down there,

and they had
a little inflatable Zodiac.

They may well have known
that Mike was dragging,

and that if he continued
to drag in this cold,

he was gonna end up
on the rocks,

and if he ended up on the rocks,
his boat was gonna break.

[Man] Thought it was going
to snap at you.

Let's have some action.

[Helen] They had touched the boat,
so he was disqualified,

according to the rules.

And the weathermen said, "No,
we will never, ever tell anybody."

And Mike said, "I will."

And that's when he called in
to headquarters and said,

"I have to disqualify myself."

[Jason] Mike Plant was a boy
in man's clothing.

I don't think he ever lost
that sense of adventure

that he had on Lake Minnetonka.

He wasn't there
for the fun of it.

He was there for the challenge.

[Speaking French]

[instrumental music playing]

[Giblin-Stark] That was a very
special moment

when we heard from Mike
that he was underway again,

and he really was flying along.

He wasn't gonna give up,
even though he was behind,

or he was an unofficial contender at that point.

[Woman] Mike Plant andDuracell has finally hit the heavy weather,

and Plant is ecstatic about it.

Plant seemed almost
giddy in a telex

to the Duracell Globe Challenger office this morning, saying,

"What a difference
a few degrees of latitude

will do for
one's mind and soul,

not to mention boat speed.

I've made it to the corner, and we're rowing along tonight.

Duracell is charged up,
we've got 30 knots of wind on the beam,

and we're just loving it."

He was just driven.

It's fantastic, you know.

You can't have more than that
in your life,

I don't think.

[Woman] Duracell Globe Challenge update
that everybody has been waiting for.

Mike Plant inDuracell sailed into Les Sables d'Olonne,

having sailed
around the world in 135 days,

thus becoming the fastest
American ever to do so.

According to sources
at Les Sables d'Olonne,

thousands of people are lining the jetty leading to the harbor.

[Helen] There were 50,000 people to greet him,

coming in seventh,

I said, "All those people
are here for you,

because you are the hero.

You are honest.

They love you."


That was very glorious.

He was appreciated here.

He was a hero in France
and in Europe.

[Reporter] Top Gun
on the background.

Look out.


[McCormick] He was pure,
and I think they recognized the purity

of what he had achieved.

Mike shows more by what he did in that race than what he didn't do.

He didn't finish it
as a competitor,

but he finished it as a sailor.

And I think that was
the essence of Mike Plant.

This race was
very important to me.

So the last couple of days
have been really hard for me...

because, obviously,

I am DQ,
which is disqualification,

but the idea of just dropping
the race in New Zealand,

it was impossible
for me to comprehend,

and quite frankly,
I never have.

[Jason] Mike Plant is right now
back in Rhode Island,

and then in September,
he does it all over again.

Another sailboat race
around the world.

Jason Davis, Channel 5,
Eyewitness News in the Twin Cities.

[Announcer] For centuries,

the sea has been a lure
for men and their ships.

In spite of the risks,

the quest has been
one of exploration,

financial reward,

and more recently, speed.

ESPN is proud to present

exclusive coverage of the 1990-1991 BOC Challenge.

I knew that when Mike entered in 1991 with

I knew that he felt like there was some unfinished business

with the Vendee Globe.

But if you are competing
at that level,

it was pretty important
to do the BOC Challenge,

which was still a very, very big
event in the US.

It was gonna mean,
if he did well, sponsorship dollars,

and that he would probably
be looking for a different boat

to do another Vendee Globe.

[McCormick] I think the 1991
BOC, for Mike, was...

I think he felt obligated to do it more than had a passion to do it.

Like any sport, if you've
got to continue playing,

you can't just sort of take a couple of
years off and go sit on the sidelines.

That was the next race in the calendar,
so he had to go do that race.

I think that his eye
was on a different prize.

His eye was on a new boat.

Again, the French
came to the party

with wider, faster boats.

We were all envious of that.

We were really envious of the designs that we were seeing.

And because the French
had come to the party

with more sponsorship dollars

and probably
better planned campaigns,

they just dominated the sport.

And Mike saw that,

and he knew in order to
compete at that level,

he needed a really, really
innovative great design.

[Newscaster] The local
Newport hero is Mike Plant.

He broughtDuracell into fifth place,
but overall, he's fourth.

Mike built his boat in Newport,

and is the leading
American single-hander.

We talk like,
"Oh, it wasn't that big a deal."

Mike was now
on his third circumnavigation.

No American sailor
had ever done such a thing.

So he was already
in very verified company,

but for Mike, that wasn't the important race.

The important race for Mike
was the next one.

The next Vendee Globe.

No, I would like one more...
one more shot at this,

I think I've...

I've learned a lot
in the last few years,

and I'd like one more chance

at one of these long races,

maybe the Globe Challenge again.

[Interviewer] What is it
that keeps you going?

What is it inside you that makes you wanna keep doing it?

I mean, you could
just sort of take it easy

and float into the next one,
and call it quits.

[Mike] It's just
something within you

that keeps you from stopping.

I can't explain it, but for me,

and racing sailboats...

Well, I don't do it
any differently than anything.

I am not a quitter. I don't...

I never have...

quit anything, and so...

It's a tough question
for me to answer

because it's one
I never ask myself.

Hi, I'm Mike Plant.

I have completed three round-the-world sailing races,

and presently,
I'm preparing to enter the 1992 Vendee Globe challenge.

This will be my second attempt

at winning this nonstop Round the World single-handed sailing race.

Mike's greatest ambition

was to win a race
like the Vendee,

and to beat the French,

who were
so far along ahead of him

in this arena.

[McCormick] He realized that
he needed a different boat

than what he'd had

Duracell was
a fairly conservative boat.

The design for these
Round the World boats

had continued to evolve.

The entire shape
of the boats had changed.

Instead of a sailboat with a full keel and a traditional sort of big slope,

the boats now were these
wide flat hulls

with huge towering rigs,

amazing amount of sail power.

These boats would absolutely
get up on plane

and just haul the mail.

The progenitor
of this type of new hull

was a guy called
Jean-Marie Finot.

He was the guru
for all the French.

All the top French sailors
were sailing Finot boats.

Finot was really
at the top of the game

and in many ways, he still is.

Finot had won
just about everything.

But I thought amongst us all,

there had been a strong American aspect to it.

And I felt that we could
design a boat

that could
race with the French.

Mike, loyal to Rodger Martin,

went back to Rodger to build his ultimate open 64 Vendee Globe,

which was calledCoyote.

[Helen] It was
a really beautiful name.

Most people don't know
Mike Plant was spiritual.

He would be more spiritual
than Native Indians,

than with "God," per se.

"Coyote" is indicative
of one that travels alone

and eats sparingly.

I said, "That's perfect."


The thing that is
exciting about this boat

is the performance advances that we've been able to get through,

I think,
through what we've learned in the last seven years

since we've been
involved in this.

And this boat is about 7,000 pounds lighter than the last one,

and it has twice the power
to carry sail.

It's definitely
a different animal.

We've learned a lot from ourselves,
we've learned a lot from the French boats.

And this new boat
is really quite extreme.

This machine was being created

that was more powerful
than probably any boat

that had ever been built
for this kind of racing.

And you knew it was gonna fly.

Even in the early stages
of construction,

when it started to take shape,

it was evident that it was
gonna be a weapon for him.

This was unlike anything else
Mike Plant had ever campaigned.

The boat was built up in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts,

in a boatyard called Concordia.

They'd never built a boat
this high-tech before.

They were builders of traditional cruising boats,

and this was a whole new animal
for the Concordia Boatyard.

Having Concordia build Coyote


They basically built the boat

and loaned him the money
to do it.

And so then, he would owe them

for life practically,
to pay them back, you know.

But it was just good
to have a sponsor.

It was somebody else's
responsibility to do this.

These guys were
on a mission from God.

They were gonna build this boat,

then Mike was gonna go out and kick some French ass with it,
you know?

[Interviewer] If you had to
give Mike any advice

about how he sails this boat,

from just the way
you think she's gonna feel,

what bit of advice
would you give to him?

One thing.

Hang on tight.

[Interviewer laughs]

[Mike] Today is
the 10th of September, 1992,

and we have finally launched
the new 60-footCoyote.

It has taken about eight months,
close to 12,000 man-hours.

The idea, of course, is to

go to France in four weeks

to prepare for
the 1992-93 Vendee Globe race,

which is an around-the-world
nonstop adventure race.

There will be 18 boats.

This will be
the only American boat.

I sailed with Mike
on late September.

He had to be in Les Sables d'Olonne by October 30th.

It was one of his
first sea trials,

and it was at
the very end of September.

So he already was really
pressed up against it for time,

but he went out on
a classic Newport day.

It was a beautiful fall day.

A northwesterly breeze,
the cold front had gone through the night before,

so we had a big
northerly breeze,

and we got out
in the Narragansett Bay,

and put the kite up,
andCoyote just...

a little rocket ship.

She just was as smooth
and fast as can be.

We were just sort of rocketing out towards Point Judith,

making double-digit
boat speeds,

and just everybody
on the boat was amazed.

It was just cleaving
through the waves.

This is a boat that was capable
of 20, 22, 24 knots,

speeds you normally see
in a powerboat,

especially with a towering rig.

[Read] Coyote, no pun intended,
completely different animal.

The minute we went sailing
on that thing,

everybody's like,
"Whoa, what's going on?"

It's a design that has
never been tested before,

so you never know until the thing is in the water,

sails up, power on.

And the boat's moving,
and you're steering it,

and it's alive, and...

You really don't know
what you have until then,

so it's really exciting.

The single-handed Round the World race today, would...

I'm guessing, be a two
to four-million-dollar project

for the guys
at the top of the game.

Mike tried to do it
on a half a million at the time.

He probably needed
three-quarters of a million

or a million dollars
to do it right.

I mean, you don't have the money,
that means you don't have the time.

And that's the resource
that you can't replace

with a race start
coming up against you.

[Mike] Tom,
there's only two weeks before I have to take the boat to France,

so we've only
got two weeks left

to do the things
that are left to do.

We only have sailed the boat
for a week.

We are a little bit behind schedule in that regard,

so there's a lot of things
left to do.

[McCormick] The boat was very,
very late coming out of the shed.

Boats had to be in Les Sables d'Olonne on October 30th.

Mike was still in Annapolis.

And the reason he was there

was he was trying one last ditch
to find some money.

He didn't have that big sponsor.

He only called the boat

because it was like
a placeholder name.

And whatever the name
of that corporate sponsor was

would replace it.

[Black] We got into
the Chesapeake Bay.

And the Chesapeake
is a very shallow place.

We were traversing the bay,

getting over towards
the eastern shore.

I remember it quite clearly
because I was on the helm.

I wasn't taking pictures
during this exercise,

but I was steering so that everybody else could do the tuning

of the rig.

And the boat
just came to a halt.

Whoa. You feel that?

You feel that?

Did we just pick something up?

[McCormick] We ran into
a sandbar, apparently,

and the boat got pretty stuck.

Okay, well... we'll do that.

But we'll get back to you, okay?

[Man] Yeah, just switch them
in the back.

Don't go into the computer.

Yeah, roger. Okay. Stand by.

[McCormick] There's only couple of
different ways you can pull a sailboat off.

One of which is, you know,
if you take the halyard,

which is one of the lines
of the masthead,

and you run into a power mode, and you just yank the thing.

Hang on.

Yeah, blood everywhere.

[McCormick] We got a passing powerboat and they were able to,

with a couple of different
tries, you know, yank that boat out of the mud.

Slippery gums.
I gotta go tape up.

[Black] And that became
the controversial moment.

I guess carbon fiber
doesn't like to go like this.

It's really strong this way,

but it doesn't like to twist.

[McCormick] Especially with that keel,

if that had been in some way
damaged or misaligned,

or was not right...

That was never double-checked
at that time.

You can drive your Honda
over the curb

and drive away with it.

You can't drive
a Formula One car over the curb.

It'll break.

[Mike] Everything on
this boat is a one-off,

which means it's been customized for this particular boat.

And so it really ends up needing a little bit of adjustment

once you see the thing
in actual use.

So that's what
we're doing today,

and tomorrow, for
the next ten days, and then...

I am out of here
to France, and...

we'll see what happens
over there.

You never knew with Mike

because he didn't start bellowing and tearing his hair out,

"I'm not ready, I'm not ready, I'm not ready."

He would just plod on
and internalize all this,

and he would sail away and there would be things wrong,

and things not finished.

And nobody knew,

except the people
that were closest to him.

And they knew his character,

so they're not gonna make
a big issue of it.

And I am sure this is true

when he left
New York on Coyote.

I'd read reports
that he was nowhere near ready.

Nowhere near ready.

And the pressure
must be enormous.

You are not ready,
you don't have enough money,

and you've got to get across the Atlantic to qualify for the race.

He was very conscious of...

of his responsibility
to the people who helped him.

And I think he would never
give up on that.

He would never say,
"Thanks for your help,

but I really
didn't feel like it."

He said, "I have to do this."

"I have to do this."

"Yes, you have to do it".


I am very excited also.

Very, very exciting to see Mike

finally on the boat,
in the water, sailing.

And he is very happy.

It's a beautiful boat.

And there is no fear.
I don't have any fear.

It's not one of the emotions
that I experience.

Distancing is something
I experience pre-race,

which is ongoing usually.

And that's just something
that needs to be done

so that Mike can do his race,
and I can carry on with my life.

And it's all a little
difficult sometimes.

But... And I always have
tears of joy

when he leaves.

It's... I know that
the fulfilling part for him

is to get out there
and be on the ocean.

It's wonderful.

[Man] Mike set off
from New York

early in October,

on his way to do his
transatlantic voyage.

It was the first time he ever
sailed that boat by himself.

[Black] It was his first moments of actually solo-sailingCoyote.

And I thought for an instant,

"These are important pictures."

You know,
"I don't wanna miss this,

because there's a lot of unknowns that could happen."

The whole sequence
of crazy events that unfolded

in the weeks after
Mike left New York,

several days into the trip...

He was able to patch
a call through to Helen,

through a passing freighter.

But he wasn't able to talk
directly to Helen,

but by VHF radio,
he was able to talk to the skipper of a freighter

who was then in turn,
able to talk to Helen,

so he was kind of
an intermediary.

I could hear him on the radio
talking to the radio guy,

telling them that
he had electrical problems,

but that he would be okay.

"And tell her that I love her."

So that was it.

Then there was nothing.

We had nothing.

That was the last
I heard from him.

Several weeks later,

some friends here in Newport

got a hold of the rescue
communication centers

in the United States and Canada,

and asked, "Please go back
through your records.

Have you heard signals
from EPIRB?"

Which are
satellite transponders

that sailors set off
when they are in trouble.

A couple of weeks earlier
they had, in fact,

had three bursts
from an unspecified EPIRB,

and they had not acted
upon it for two reasons.

First being that EPIRB
already made three bursts,

and they said at four bursts, it's an actual distress signal.

And they also didn't have that particular EPIRB registered.

There was no record
of who owned it,

what boat it might be on.

[Newscaster] But Mike Plant's family and friends say more could be done.

To urge the Coast Guard
to ask the Navy's assistance

in finding our son Mike,

who sent out an emergency signal

from his sailboat
on October 27th,

and the coast guard did not act on it until November 13th,

just last Friday.

Never said boo to anybody

and those are... That's, to me,
a very serious, serious situation,

when they ignore a cry for help.

The question is,
why wasn't the search for Mike Plant

begun when his emergency beacon,
one just like this,

first went off
on October the 27th?

The coast guard said that Plant never registered his beacon,

therefore they had no idea
who to go and look for.

Phil Harder
is a member of the family

and an experienced seaman.

What do you say
to the coast guard on that?

Well, to put it politely,

that's just nonsense.

The only thing encoding does

is say the name of the vessel
and the owner,

and the country of origin
of that vessel.

But the alarm flare,
if you wanna call it that,

on a radar sweep
or the equivalent,

is the same,
whether it's encoded or not.

A powerful storm
in the Atlantic Ocean

may have doomed
a veteran American sailor

trying a solo crossing
to France.

Jacqueline Adams has that story.

[Female newscaster]
After a fierce hurricane,

a satellite picked up a signal that Plant was in dire trouble.

But no one knew it was him,

since he'd apparently never registered
his emergency signal with authorities.

Almost two weeks after he should have landed in France,

the coast guard finally identified Plant's distress signal,

and a massive search began.

Navy and coast guard planes scouring 190,000 square miles of ocean.

They were hoping by the 21st,

the 22nd was the start,

his birthday was the 21st.

And then right after that,

the boat was spotted
upside down.

In other news, the coast guard
has called off its search

for the American yachtsman,
Mike Plant,

who was trying to sail alone
from New York to France.

Last Sunday, a freighter spotted
his 60-foot yacht upside down,

north of the Azores.

A French tug reached it today.

An emergency life raft,
partially inflated, was still onboard.

No sign of Plant.

The coast guard says
he is presumed to be dead.

[Female newscaster] Divers did a thorough search of the hull

of the 60-foot slip,

They did not find Mike Plant.

What they
did find seems to indicate

the seasoned sailor
has not survived.

Mike Plant's family
and sailing friends

say they think
that on October 27th,

the weight on the bottom
of the boat's keel came off,

and that the sailboat
went over immediately.

Anyone that has any notion
of the ocean

knows that if you are
missing for weeks,

the chances of you being alive
are very slender.

I really... I...

I thought for sure
he would show up.

I really thought for sure.

I just couldn't believe
the boat was upside down

and he's nowhere.

There's always the hope,
but I think the realist...

The realist in all of us

knew that this was
a really bad sign.

I'll have that upside-down picture with no keel on it

ingrained in my head
for the rest of my life.

[Helen] It floated all the way
across the Atlantic,

in three months, upside down.

I wanted to get the keel
to see what happened.

[McCormick] There was
a lot of speculation that

when that keel bulb dropped,
when it fell off,

that it had been
a very violent motion,

that perhaps Mike was immediately tossed into the sea,

crashed on deck,

that he had, you know,
a quick and painless,

and merciful end.

I think everybody was wondering what happened to that bulb,

that's really the central
question to everything.

Did Mike run into a container, did he get backed off?

Did he hit a whale?

Was it just a poor mechanical bond,
was it poorly installed?

Was it that grounding
in the Chesapeake Bay?

What happened
to that fucking keel?

[Neri] Looking back on it,

compared to the
amount of science

and computer modeling
and engineering,

and material science that would go into attaching a bulb to a keel today,

it's not an indictment
on anybody's efforts.

It's just a statement of the lack of funding for the projects.

I mean,
that part of the job should have gone to a structural engineer.

You know, literally, months
before the guys in Concordia

got to that stage
of the build project.

But it was done with the best intentions of some very good people,

and with the best advice
of a very experienced person.

And they
were the wrong choices.

Would it have, you know, been okay, intact, although it hadn't grounded?

But there's nobody
who can tell that.

It's a possibility.

No one really knows
exactly what happened

other than the fact that,
that boat was gone,

and that boat was flipped.

But why that happened,

that's the big question.

I remember during conversations
people kept saying,

"Isn't it great Mike died
doing what he loves?"

Nobody dies
doing what they love.

He died pushing a boat hard,

and all of a sudden,

even for Superman,
even for Mike Plant,

ran into a spot that he couldn't get himself out of.

If it had happened in the Southern Ocean around Cape Horn,

I think you could say,
Mike died doing what he loved.

The great tragedy

of Mike isn't necessarily
that he was lost at sea,

but that he was lost at sea,

so close to try to prove

and achieve what he'd spent
most of his adult life after.

I think he probably scrambled up
on top of that hull.

I think he probably survived
and held on as long as he could,

hoping that somebody would come.

But they never did.

Never did.

[Wever Weed] So who needs someone
who races around the world in sailboats

and then goes
and gets himself lost at sea?

All the greatness and fray,

the disturbance in our lives,
who needs it?

Who needs someone who stirs up our routine so often?

Challenging our sensibilities,

inspiring us to believe we can achieve the impossible.

Who needs it?

Who needs someone who never settles for good enough?

Whose expectations of himself

elevate those expectations
we have of ourselves?

Never arguing for limitations.

Constantly focused.

Reaching, searching,
who needs it?

Who needs someone
who is more interested in living

than in longevity?

Who needs a searcher who reminds us how little we have found?

I do.

I will never forget Mike.

He would like people
to see that it is okay

to go and follow your dreams,

and get through
your adversities,

and live the adventure.

Every avenue around us
is built on fear, I think.

That can give you an avenue to say,
"All right, it's over.

I am not going to be fearful.
I am going to live.

I am going to take a risk,

I am going to love,

but I am going to be me."

I think what
many people don't realize

is that their dream
is actually already there

for them to take advantage of.

You have to see
that what you're doing

isn't getting you where
you want to go in life.

People should take the dream
that they're given.

I mean,
the love of things that they see when they're open and enthusiastic

and go with it.

There's no other way
to get moments of satisfaction.

Mike Plant saw it when he was three months old, probably.

I think about it, a lot.

You know, as a young boy,
and I think about him

and all the things
that he wanted to do and did do.

I think that's what
this is maybe all about,

that if you got a goal,
you can do it.

The chief inspiration, indeed, with all of us is to...

If you set your heart on something,
you can accomplish it.

A psychiatrist said about him
when he was young,

"It's a pity of some that were born a hundred years too late,

there's no frontier left."

People ask why
I do this stuff. It's...

It would be really easy to...

explain it today, wouldn't it?

It's gorgeous out here.

It's been so long. Two years.

We're almost as far north

as the rays go south.

We're almost
to 50 degrees north.

And it really looks
a lot the same.

The ocean is
such an incredible color.

It's so deep blue,
it's just like...

how it was two years ago
in the south Atlantic.

You can't believe it's the same ocean that's off of New York City.

We're only about 700 miles away.

Bird life is better and better
every day.

This is the first truly...

good day I've had.

It's kind of tough getting used
to being at sea again.

It's been almost two years
for me.

Physically, the first couple of days were really tough.

I wasn't really seasick,

but it's tough to get
anything done.

It's just all so different.

But feels a lot better today.

Last night was no wind,
very sloppy.

The seas are
still really confused,

but this breeze now is so fresh.

It's gonna
string things up quickly.

I just hope it stays.

It's supposed to have a front

with 35 knots from
the southeast,

which would be... On the nose,

it's supposed to happen tonight.

And I really don't need that.

This is real nice,
the way it is.

Knot meter is reading 12 to 13.

Winds are 21 up current,

it's about 25 through.

This boat is moving along
just nice.

Real nice.

This may not seem that fast,

but it's faster
than the 12-meter

ever goes in its whole life.

Jason, buddy, you got to see it.

You just gotta see it.

It's too bad
we gotta rush for this...