Great American sets sail again

Rich Wilson off on another record breaking voyage

Tuesday January 7th 2003, Author: Keith Taylor, Location: Transoceanic
Sailing adventurer & K-12 educator Rich Wilson will attempt in March to break the 154-year-old passage record of the renowned American clipper ship Sea Witch from Hong Kong to New York. Wilson announced the attempt today in Sydney where he is making final preparations to sail his 53-foot trimaran Great American II on a sea trial voyage to Hong Kong.

Wilson, from Boston, Massachusetts, already holds passage records in the same boat from San Francisco to Boston, and from New York City to Melbourne, Australia. His ocean-going exploits will be tracked by hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren in the education programs he creates on his website and for daily newspapers in the wide-ranging Newspaper in Education network.

The American skipper will be joined on the Hong Kong adventure by long-time sailor and shipping industry executive Rich du Moulin, from Larchmont, New York. The pair is planning to depart Sydney on Thursday or Friday this week, bound for the start in Hong Kong.

The two sailors then will set forth in the wake of the legendary New York clipper ship Sea Witch which in 1849, skippered by Captain Robert “Bully” Waterman, entered port in New York, 74 days and 14 hours out of Hong Kong, setting a record under sail for the passage that has never been eclipsed.

From Hong Kong, Great American II will sail south through the China Sea in a region filled with shoals, ships, pirates, and oil fields. After crossing the vast Indian Ocean, they will have to weather the perils of the Agulhus Current before rounding the Cape of Good Hope, transiting the South Atlantic, crossing the Equator and the doldrums before heading to New York and a finish at the Statue of Liberty.

“A live adventure – whose outcome remains uncertain until its conclusion – is a powerful way to fuel a rich educational experience for students,” Wilson said today. “That’s really what this voyage is all about. Putting another record in the books will be a nice accomplishment, but the real satisfaction will come from firing the imagination of thousands of young people in subjects like math, ocean sciences and astronomy, or having them understand what individuals are capable of when they persevere.”

Wilson’s last record attempt in Great American II finished in Melbourne in November last year, after a 68 day 10 hour passage from New York City that smashed the record set by the American extreme clipper ship Mandarin as she carried prospectors to the Australian Gold Rush in the winter of 1855-56.

Before that, in 1993 he sailed the same boat around treacherous Cape Horn from San Francisco to New York, breaking the record of the clipper ship Northern Light and setting a new mark of 69 days 20 hours. A prior attempt in 1990 in a previous Great American trimaran nearly ended in tragedy when she capsized in hurricane force winds and giant seas off Cape Horn. Wilson and his crewman were rescued in a daring feat of seamanship by the containership New Zealand Pacific that went to their aid.

A life-long asthmatic – he takes four medications daily – Wilson knows that his accomplishments have a strong resonance with schoolchildren who suffer from asthma and other medical conditions.

"I had to be a scientist about my own body," he tells young students, "because even if I saw my doctor twice each year, for a half-hour, that was only an hour each year. But I had to live in my body for the rest of the year: he didn't. So I had to be smart and
help him to help me with my asthma."

Wilson, 52, lives in the tiny seaport town of Rockport, north of Boston. Raised and educated in Boston, Wilson received an A.B. Degree in Mathematics from Harvard College, an S.M. Degree in Interdisciplinary Science from MIT and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He has worked as a math teacher in Boston, a defense analyst in Washington, DC, and as technical consultant on power/desalination plants in Saudi Arabia. He was also a successful investor in six entertainment companies in Massachusetts.

Wilson served six years on the Board of Trustees of Sea Education Association and nine years on the Board of The School for Field Studies, both hands-on college-level science programs, and as an Overseer of the Boston Museum of Science. He has served on the Board of the American Lung Association of Boston, and as Honorary
Chairman of the ALA's Christmas Seals campaign in 1993.

In 1980, Wilson became the youngest Overall Winner of the prestigious Newport to Bermuda Race skippering Holger Danske. In 1988 he won his class sailing the 35-foot trimaran Curtana in the Carlsberg Singlehanded Transatlantic Race from Plymouth, England, to Newport, Rhode Island. Wilson keeps in shape for future ocean voyages by swimming and running. He has completed the Boston Marathon four times.

Richard du Moulin, 56, lives in Larchmont, New York. His love of sailing and his career in the shipping industry indicate the depth and breadth of his passion for all things maritime. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (1968) and Bachelor of Engineering (1969) from
Dartmouth College, and an M.B.A. (1974) from Harvard Business School. Du Moulin has competed at all levels of sailing competition including four America's Cup campaigns, two Transatlantic Races, and 17 Newport-Bermuda Races. In the shipping industry, he spent 15 years with Ogden Marine, Inc, after a three year stint as a US Navy officer, then bought and operated Marine Transport Lines. He sold the company after 12 years and with a partner founded Intrepid Shipping in Stamford, Connecticut.

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