He built the yacht with his own hands in the basement of an apartment building, it was only seven and a half meters long, yet Richard Konkolski, as the first inhabitant of a landlocked country, sailed alone around the world. The legendary sailor from Bohumín celebrated his eightieth birthday this week.
In total, he circumnavigated the globe solo three times, participated in several transoceanic races and set numerous records. He spent a total of five years on the seas and oceans and traveled a distance equivalent to more than ten times the circumference of the globe.
At the same time, he saw the sea with his own eyes for the first time at the age of 24.
Konkolski was already involved in a number of sports during his school years. He graduated from a civil engineering school and from 1963 to 1972 earned his living as a construction worker.
He started sailing at the age of 16, but seven years later discovered that inland waters were too small for him. He went to Poland, where he obtained the necessary documents, including a captain’s diploma.
At the age of 24, he set his eyes on the sea for the first time and, three years later, he took part in his first race at sea, from which he emerged victorious.
“I grew up in the Bohumín region. At that time it was an area full of ponds. There were sailing boats in many places,” he recalls.
He made his first race across the Atlantic in 1972, then circumnavigated the globe.
When he returned to the Polish ports of Szczecin and Swinoujscie in 1975, crowds of Poles came to welcome him, as it was an extraordinary sporting and tourist success.
Konkolski became the first inhabitant of a land country to circumnavigate the globe alone. His yacht Nike I, which he built in 1968 in the basement of an apartment building, became the second smallest ship to circumnavigate the globe.
It involved 343 days and nights of navigation, interspersed with stops in 79 ports on five continents. Thanks to his trip, many saw the Czech Republic for the first time. the flag.
Niké I, the first ship to circumnavigate the world, was born in the basement of a building. He did everything himself according to the purchased plans. For it to represent the country at that time, the ship was not allowed to be private. “So I gave it to Bohumín Wire Works,” he laughed.
In the second race across the Atlantic four years later he finished second, in the third race in 1980 he finished fourth in class.
Two years later, he completed the first solo round the world race – BOC Challenge 1982. He finished third with five world records and became the first European to circumnavigate the world solo in both directions.
The race took place shortly after Konkolski emigrated to the United States. The reason for his departure abroad was the obstacles that were increasingly thrown under his feet by the bureaucrats of the communist regime. The highlight is that in 1980, the yachting commission banned him from continuing to participate in sea races and private cruises.
Convicted of ship theft
“We did not migrate for emigration or an easier life,” he explained years ago.
“I had been preparing, largely at my own expense, for an international race around the world for several years, and when several bureaucrats in Prague did not allow me to do so, I left without their permission. I would like to emphasize here that these bureaucrats were not members of the Communist Party of the Czech Republic, so it was with the regime of that time that it had nothing to do. It was human stupidity, envy, prove his power and position,” he said.
“There were and will be such human characters. You just have to look around and you’ll be surprised how many there are still today,” he said.
Konkolsky’s escape was accompanied by dramatic circumstances. During the state of emergency in Poland, he traveled with his wife Miroslava, also a navigator, and his son Richard to Szczecin, where he had the ship Niké II prepared.
He did not have the necessary papers, but eventually the family managed to leave Svinoústí despite great technical difficulties. They won only after sailing around the coast of East Germany, where a patrol boat could still hypothetically set out and hold them.
“In the morning, while I was at the helm, he boarded the Reich. It was only then that I told him that we were going to the United States. I cried like a little boy,” said describes Konkolski.
“My son reproachfully said to me: Dad, why didn’t you tell me? I could have taken my favorite things. Of course, we took this into account and took with us everything he loved.”
After three weeks, they landed in Newport, Rhode Island. He wanted to open a sailing school and service there, but the pressure and opposition from the competition was so strong that he gave up.
After that, he founded the successful multimedia studio Seven Oceans Video and Digital Media, in which he devoted himself to the production of films and promotional materials.
In the former Czechoslovakia, Konkolski was sentenced in absentia to 11.5 years for ship theft.
The judgment was valid for a long time. That’s why he couldn’t return to his homeland for a long time. It was only in 2000 that the regional court in Ostrava abolished it. 14 years later, Konkolski regained his Czech citizenship and returned to Karvina.
Václavák is one of the magical places
In his last race around the world in 1986, he broke all his previous records and added new ones.
Richard Konkolski during the presentation of the Medal for services rendered to the State in the field of sports at the Château | Photo: Ludvik Hradilek
“It was enjoyed by, among others, US President Ronald Reagan. Of course, there was silence along the trail,” recalls Konkolski, who wrote several books about his adventures and directed several films and a series of television documentaries.
It is said that Konkolski would not change anything in his life, only perhaps that he could have been born earlier.
“I had the last chance to see the real life of the natives. Today, one of the magic places where I used to live hunting and fishing is Wenceslas Square with hundreds of boats and hotels,” said he added.
Konkolski received a number of awards in the Czech Republic, for example, in 2013 he was awarded a medal for services to the state in the field of sports, he was previously awarded the titles of Meritorious Master of Sports and Sportsman of the year in 1978, but also abroad.
He has also won Yachtsman of the Year four times in three different countries. And his Nike I is now on display at the National Technical Museum in Prague.
“Extreme gamer. Food geek. Internet buff. Alcohol expert. Passionate music specialist. Beeraholic. Incurable coffee fan.”