Playboys of West’s world

Talk about endurance.

Talk about endurance. Who would want to spend 12 days slogging through 350 miles of wilderness in Borneo? Try Owen West, a Goldman Sachs oil and natural-gas futures trader, novelist and five-time finisher of the Eco-Challenge race. The brutal test of physical stamina and willpower was dreamed up five years ago by Mark Burnett, the TV producer who gave mankind Survivor. In 1995 West’s team took second place in Utah, but he had planned to skip this year’s contest. Then his wife rang him up on the trading desk in May to relay a request from the race coordinators: They needed a fourth member for a team. “She asked who my fantasy team would be,” recalls West, 31, whose first novel, Sharkman Six, was published in September. “I said, ‘Clint Eastwood, Bruce Springsteen and Elle McPherson.’ She said, ‘You’re on the right track.’” The team consisted of three former Playboy models -- and the gallant West signed on. Alongside Jennifer Lavoie (Miss August 1993), Kalin Olson (Miss August 1997) and Danelle Folta (Miss April 1995), West embarked on adventures that included wading through foot-deep bat guano, facing off against six-foot vipers and paddling through a squall in the South China Sea.

West says his bubbly teammates rose to the occasion."The stereotype they faced was that they were too soft or too stupid to finish,” he says. “Every military team that’s entered the Eco-Challenge has dropped out the first time. The bunnies made it. Maybe instead of training at Coronado, the marines should train at the Playboy Mansion.” Lavoie says of the ordeal: “It was amazing. I cried every single day. One day I cried for 12 hours.” She praises West’s fortitude. “He was great. So calm and patient.”