Mike Plant Memorial Fund
Mike’s passion for racing across the world’s oceans was matched by his enthusiasm for giving young people the confidence to reach for their dreams.
World renowned sailor,
off-shore sailing icon,
youth sailing advocate
The Mike Plant Memorial Fund is named in honor of the world-renowned single-handed sailor Mike Plant. Mike began his sailing career racing on Lake Minnetonka and later became America’s premier single-handed sailor racing 60-foot open-class yachts around the world. Mike’s passion for racing across the world’s oceans was matched by his enthusiasm for giving young people the confidence to reach for their dreams. To honor that commitment, the Mike Plant Memorial Fund was created at the Wayzata Community Sailing Center to provide sailing experiences for children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to sail. Scholarships are available through the fund, applications can be found in the Programs folder, above.
In addition to scholarships, the Plant Fund supports two major events each year.
The Mike Plant Youth Clinic provides disadvantaged youth the opportunity to enjoy the sport of sailing with a week long camp. In partnership with the Interfaith Outreach the Sailing Center provides the facilities, boats, and instruction, Interfaith Outreach provides the kids.
The Mike Plant Memorial Regatta is sailed as part of the Twin Cities Youth Sailing regatta series. Each year over 100 children from area sailing schools gather to compete for the overall trophy.
About Mike Plant
In the summer of 1984, after several years of experience as a charter and delivery skipper, Mike landed in Newport, Rhode Island. A movie documenting the first running of the BOC Globe Challenge (1982/83) was enough to peak his interest and make a decision to be an entrant in the second one, scheduled to leave Newport in September, 1986. By the time he was lost at sea in October, 1992 Mike had become America’s premier single-handed ocean racer. He was on his way to Les Sables d’Olonne, France and the start of the Vendee Globe Challenge which, at 42 would have been his 4th single-handed circumnavigation. He was aboard COYOTE, a radically designed open class 60’ ocean racer designed by Rodger Martin and thought to be the fastest mono-hull sailboat ever launched in the United States. His previous circumnavigations had been in 1986/87 sailing the 50’ AIRCO DISTRIBUTOR, and again in 1988/89 and 1990/91 aboard the 60’ DURACELL both Martin designs, but built by Mike himself.
1986-87 BOC Globe Challenge
The BOC Globe Challenge is a single-handed around the world yacht race sponsored by the BOC Groupe, a British based multinational corporation. Its format is as an elapsed time race with the start and finish in Newport, and three stops in-between. With few other restrictions, yachts were entered in either Class I (50-60 feet) or Class II (40-50 feet). In the fall of 1984 Mike began building his first ocean racer. Built on a shoestring budget in Mike’s front yard over many evenings and weekends, the 50’ water-ballasted sloop was finally launched in the spring of 1986. Christened AIRCO DISTRIBUTOR, which acknowledged the sponsorship of several BOC affiliates, Mike was ready to compete against the world’s top racers …… many with million dollar programs. AIRCO DISTRIBUTOR was both strong and fast confirming the partnership of Martin’s design and Mike’s ability as a boat builder. The sailing world was shocked when AIRCO returned to Newport first in Class II with a total elapsed time of 157 days 11 hours and 44 minutes. His completion of the 27,550 mile course had bettered the previous record by some 50 days. Mike’s lust for the sport, as well as his international reputation as a winning solo circumnavigator was thus established.
1989-90 Vendee Globe Challenge
Conceived by the winner of the BOC Class I division, this was to be an ocean racers ultimate challenge. A single-handed around the world nonstop race hosted by the French city of Les Sables d’Olonne scheduled to start in the fall of 1989. The 24,000 mile marathon course would travel west to east rounding the earths five southernmost capes. Race rules would prohibit yachts from stopping for rest, re-provisioning, or any assisted repair with the nearly unthinkable exception of returning to the start.
With the realization that winning such a marathon against the world’s most competent and accomplished solo sailors required a new and faster boat, Mike again called on Rodger Martin for a winning new design. Simultaneously, a fund raising effort was begun. In the fall of 1988 with Martin’s new design but little financial support, Mike again realized that in order to compete, construction would be his obligation. In a rented shed, construction began on a 60’ water-ballasted sloop featuring an inside navigation station with 360 degree visibility, twin rudders, and sophisticated communication and weather equipment.
On a foul weather Spring day in 1989 the new yacht was launched eventually becoming DURACELL, again acknowledging the battery companies sponsorship. Following a summer of fund raising and sea trials, Mike left for the race qualifying trip to France in September and the race start in November. Despite enormous challenges that included fighting a debilitating virus for five days at sea, Mike was the early leader, and a contender for much of the race. Then, in the South Pacific, misfortune struck. After a $5.00 rigging part broke, Mike was forced to anchor off Campbell Island and attempt repairs. When high winds and a dragging anchor forced him to accept a tow or be blown onto the rocky shore, he chose the tow and DURACELL was automatically disqualified. Mike did make repairs and continue racing, crossing the line in April, 1990 in seventh place. Although officially disqualified, he received a hero’s welcome with some 25,000 people lining the breakwater as DURACELL sailed into Les Sables d’Olonne. Mike was the only American entrant in this race and his 135 day sprint set another United States record for solo circumnavigations.
1990-91 BOC Challenge
In June, as DURACELL was being sailed home by friends, Mike was back in the US to begin fundraising for the next campaign. With a slightly modified DURACELL, he set sail again from Newport in September, 1990. Once again with financial support from DURACELL, but on a very limited budget, Mike was this time competing in Class I of this three stop elapsed time race. Despite damage to the sloop’s bow after a collision with a competitor at the start of the Capetown to Sydney leg (which he subsequently repaired while underway) DURACELL finished 4th in Class I. With a total elapsed time of 132 days 20 hours, he had again established a new American record for solo circumnavigation. DURACELL was sold following the 90/91 BOC.
Single-handed Hall of Fame
On September 6, 2002 in a ceremony held at Newport Rhode Island, Mike was inducted into the Singlehaded Hall of Fame. In his induction speech Herb McCormick, editor of Cruising World Magazine and an old friend of Mikes, had this to say: “Solo sailing was a perfect outlet for Mike’s resourcefulness, wanderlust, and sense of adventure. In the mid-80’s he teamed up with a kindred soul named Rodger Martin, who designed for Mike a conservative 50-foot boat that Mike, with a lot of help from his friends, built from scratch and entered in the second BOC Challenge. Then, all he did was go out and win Class II, easily the best performance ever by an American in a solo race.” He closed his speech with the following: “ The possibilities that Mike Plant represented live on today in sailors like Brad Van Liew, for whom Mike was a mentor, and in all the Around Alone sailors who are soon about to sail in search of their own quests. To each and every one, fair winds, and never forget the spirit and talent of Mike Plant, the newest member of the Singlehanded Hall of Fame.”
Immediately following 90/91 BOC, Mike began planning to compete in the 92/93 Vendee Globe Challenge. To win the non-stop race, a new boat was necessary, and Rodger Martin was to again provide the design. COYOTE a 60-footer with a broad beam, huge sail area, and a radical “blade” keel looked to be the ocean dragster Mike needed to compete with the French and other leaders of the sport. At 60 feet, COYOTE sported twin rudders, an 85’ triple spreader carbon fiber mast, a 19’ beam, and a shallow “dish” shape, a look not unlike that of the inland scows Mike had learned to sail on. COYOTE had a total displacement of only 21,500 lbs (5,000 lbs lighter than DURACELL) with total sail area of 2,600 square feet to windward and 4,700 square feet downwind. Below decks there were five water-tight compartments as well as tankage for 7,000 lbs of movable water ballast. But as with his other campaigns, Mike had to win a fundraising battle on land before the ocean sailing could begin. COYOTE’s production schedule was slow as a result, and the launch was delayed until September 10, 1992, less than seven weeks prior to the time Mike was required to be in France for the start. Following shortened sea trials, a visit to the Annapolis Boat Show, and additional fundraising efforts, Mike departed from New York bound for France on Friday October 16, 1992.
The COYOTE Search
Wednesday, October 21, 1992 Mike radio’s tanker SKS Trader using a battery powered VHF transmitter reporting that he had lost all electrical power (for self-steering systems, radio, running lights, and other navigation equipment) saying that he had been working on repairs for 3 days and hoping to have it solved by morning.
Tuesday, October 27, 1992 EPIRB distress signal from COYOTE received by U.S. Mission Control, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency) and by CMCC (Canadian Mission Control Center). The signal was not passed on by receiving agencies to the Coast Guard because of insufficient signal duration and the absence of registration information for the EPIRP device.
Friday, October 30, 1992 Mike’s original intended date of arrival at Les Sables d’Olonne, France
Friday, November 6, 1992 COYOTE’s builder, Concordia Custom Yachts, notifies the U.S. Coast Guard requesting that an alert be issued for all ships at sea, providing COYOTE’s EPIRB number and life raft identification.
Tuesday, November 10, 1992 Mike’s fiancé, waiting in Les Sables d’Olonne, requests that the French Coast Guard initiate a search. The French, though receptive, indicate that a formal request from the U.S. Coast Guard is required.
Wednesday, November 11, 1992 Mike’s parents, at home in Minnesota, request that the U.S. Coast Guard begin a search – a request that was declined because of insufficient information about the appropriate location for a search to begin.
Thursday, November 12, 1992 A friend of Mike’s speaks directly with NOAA asking whether any signal had been received from Mike’s EPIRB and is told that indeed a short signal had been recorded on October 27.
Friday, November 13, 1992 U.S. Coast Guard begins a search from Bermuda. The search covers an area northwest of Bermuda centered on coordinates of 36-21 north, 52-45 west supplied by Canadian Mission Control Center.
Wednesday, November 18, 1992 U.S. Coast Guard extends search area to include an area north of the Azores
Thursday November 19, 1992 U.S. Coast Guard suspends search
Friday November 20 U.S. Coast Guard decides to resume search in a new area north of the Azores when weather improves
Sunday November 22, 1992 COYOTE’s upside down hull is sighted by a passing tanker Protank Orinocco at 46-54 north, 26-51 west (Link to Map showing where these coordinates are). British Nimrod aircraft conduct a flare search of the area. Though the stem keel is intact, the ballast bulb is no longer attached to the end of the stem.
Wednesday November 25, 1992 The French tug Malabar arrives alongside COYOTE. Divers board and search the hull and find the life raft and other survival gear on board. The search is officially ended.
Wednesday January 27, 1993 COYOTE, with rigging cut free, is towed by salvage tug to shore from a position about 70 miles south and west of the Irish coast.