CHATHAM — In his latest attempt to
row across the Atlantic, Frenchman Jean Lukes is putting miles of
ocean—and the past—behind him. Lukes, 39, rowed away from Chatham
Saturday morning, by his count the fourth time he has attempted to make
the passage alone.
In both appearance and demeanor, Lukes is not the stereotypical
adventurer. A father of two, he is of average physical build and shows
nothing of the outward intensity one might expect from an athlete facing
the challenge of his life. But Lukes said he isn’t out to shatter the
world’s record passage of 72 days, set by Gerard D’Aborville in 1980.
“The record, it’s nothing,” he said. While the world’s record is a
fleeting honor, sure to be bested someday, his own personal best is an
enduring achievement, Lukes said.
On the way to reaching that goal, Lukes was off to a rocky start. His
boat, the 23-foot Sojasun, was held by U.S. Customs officials in Boston
, and arrived here a day late. Even as he prepared to row away from the
Stage Harbor Yacht Club’s tow boat about a quarter mile off the tip of
South Beach Saturday morning, he announced a more serious problem.
The Sojasun is equipped with two satellite tracking beacons, neither of
which appeared to be functioning correctly. Because the boat is not
equipped with a standard emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB),
Lukes’ sole link to shore was a satellite telephone. But late Monday,
one of the two other beacons began functioning.
According to the London-based Ocean Rowing Society, Lukes was located
111 miles due east of Chatham Monday, having made excellent progress.
Lukes is no stranger to setbacks. In 1994, eight days out of Chatham ,
one of the oar locks on his boat was damaged, ending the trip. With new
metal oar locks, Lukes tried again in 1995. According to the
London-based Ocean Rowing Society, Lukes actually tried twice that year,
with each attempt lasting only three days. Lukes said he was
ill-equipped and unprepared.
“I know today, I was not ready,” he said. Lukes tried again in 2001, but
aborted the trip after nine days because of problems with his back.
As for his troubles with the satellite beacons this year, Lukes said it
is his experience which will be his most important safety device, not
“It’s to do everything to not [have to] use the beacons,” he said.