NEWPORT, R.I. — A competitor in the solo around-the-world sailboat race has been charged by two competitors with using his engine to propel his boat.
The charge was made against Richard Konkolski, 42, of Newport, by Hal Roth, 59, of Mount Desert, Me., and Jean Luc Van Den Heede, 41, of France.
In a written protest filed with the race committee in Cape Town, South Africa, they alleged that Konkolski, aboard Declaration of Independence, ran his engine at various times during the 7,100-nautical-mile first leg from Newport in violation of race Rule 10.
The pair radioed their intention to protest in late September after they emerged from the doldrums.
Race Chairman Robin Knox-Johnston said in Cape Town that Konkolski has been given a copy of the protest and that a protest committee hearing will be held next week.
Race observers said the charge will be hard to prove.
It was speculated that Van Den Heede, a high school mathematics teacher, and Roth will try to prove their case by an analysis of Konkolski's speed through the doldrums.
Going into the sparse winds of the doldrums, the three boats were within a 50-mile circle. Coming out of the doldrums, Konkolski was 150 miles closer to Cape Town than Van Den Heede on Let's Go and 134 miles closer than Roth on American Flag.
During the week before the doldrums, Konkolski averaged 5.8 knots, Van Den Heede 5.5 and Roth 5.3. The week of the doldrums, Konkolski averaged 5.3, but Van Den Heede dropped to 4.4 and Roth to 4.5.
Boats with engines have their transmission levers sealed by race officials. A piece of lead crimped on a wire is the sealing method. A race spokesman in Newport said he assumed that Konkolski's seal was inspected after his arrival in Cape Town.
After the doldrums and after filing his notice of intention to protest, Van Den Heede proceeded to beat Konkolski into Cape Town--by 28 minutes. Roth arrived 23 hours later.
All are experienced sailors.
Konkolski, who competed in the 1982-83 solo race around the world in the same boat, then called Nike III, has circumnavigated twice. He defected from his native Czechoslovakia with his wife and son before entering the 1982-83 race. The Czech government claims ownership of the boat.
Roth is among the best known of American cruising sailors. He has sailed his boat, Whisper, with his wife, Margaret, more than 75,000 miles, and has written several books and produced documentary films of their adventures.
Van Den Heede is a veteran solo ocean racer. He participated in two Mini Transats, trans-Atlantic races sailed solo in boats less than 21 feet long.
All three boats are in Class 2, 40 to 50 feet long.
Konkolski's cutter is 44 feet long and weighs 26,000 pounds. Van Den Heede's boat is 45 feet and weighs 11,000 pounds. One reason the boat is so light is that it has no engine.
Roth's boat, a modified ultra-light Santa Cruz 50 is 50 feet long and weighs 16,000 pounds. Length and weight have a direct bearing on potential speed. The longer and lighter, the faster a boat is.
With 15 of the 24 boats in port, there were these other developments:
--Thursday's Child, the 60-foot Class 1 boat skippered by Warren Luhrs, 41, of Alachua, Fla., was granted 24 hours 53 minutes for his time spent in Newport repairing prestart collision damage inflicted by France's Titouan Lamouzou aboard Ecureuil d'Aquitaine.
Luhrs, however, did file a formal protest against Lamouzou with the race committee. He made clear, however, that he did not want to press the protest unless he is protested by other racers for failing to protest, something that can occur under the rules of sailboat racing. The committee tabled the protest pending developments.
The time allowance gave Luhrs a fourth-place finish overall for the first leg, bumping Jacques de Roux's Skoiern IV of France to fifth. De Roux, however, remains first in Class 2.
--Lamouzou, 31, arrived 11 hours behind Thursday's Child with the story of a harrowing voyage in which he had to (a) steer by hand 19 to 21 hours a day for five weeks after his auto pilot failed, (b) repeatedly repair a leak in his bow caused by his collision with Luhrs, and (c) replace a broken boom with a spinnaker pole.
"It was not an enjoyable trip for me, but I am not discouraged at all," he said. "I figure that I have had all my bad luck on this leg and that things will be OK from now on.
"What I have lost in days I have gained in experience," summed up the sailor who learned ocean racing aboard boats skippered by Eric Taberly, one of France's greatest sailors.
Trouble continued to beset a number of boats in the rest of the fleet.
These were the standings of the fleet at midweek:
1. Tuna Marine (Martin) South Africa; 2. Credit Agricole III (Jeantot) France; 3. Biscuit's Lu (Bernardin) France; 4. Thursday's Child (Luhrs) United States; 5. Skoiern IV (De Roux) France; 6. Ecureuil d'Aquitaine (Lamouzou) France; 7. Airco Distributor (Plant) United States; 8. UAP-MED. Sans Frontieres (Terlain) France; 9. Stabilo Boss (Reed) South Africa; 10. Triple M/Spirit Of Sydney (Kiernan) Australia.
11. Let's Go 2 (Van Den Heed) France; 12. Declaration Of Independence (Konkolski) United States; 13. Legend Securities (White) United States; 14. Belmont Finland (Harkimo) Finland; 15. American Flag (Roth) United States; 16. Colt By Rettig (Salmi) Finland; 17. Lone Star (Schrader) United States; 18. Joseph Young (Hughes) Canada; 19. Double Cross (Mitchell) Great Britain; 20. Madonna (Shimada) Japan.
21. Quailo (Smith) United States; 22. Neptune's Express (McBride) New Zealand; 23. Miss Global (de Almeida) Brazil; 24. ACI Crusader (Biddlecombe) Australia.