01 Feb 2002


Thumbs Up Down Under


Topics:
ShareBar

It was with mixed emotions that Rich Wilson (MBA '82) and his coskipper Bill Biewenga set sail from New York Harbor last September aboard their 53-foot trimaran Great American II, heading south on a long-planned voyage to Melbourne, Australia, fourteen thousand miles away. Only days earlier, on September 11, they had interrupted their departure preparations at the Chelsea Piers to race to Ground Zero to assist with rescue efforts. Wilson, a severe asthmatic, used his knowledge of the condition to aid medical technicians treating victims of smoke and dust inhalation; Biewenga, a Vietnam vet, helped medics assess the severity of victims' injuries. "What was remarkable was the number and diversity of the volunteers," Wilson told the Washington Post (September 16, 2001). "You saw that this was the strength of our country."

Reeling from the tragedy, the two men were uncertain about their voyage. "We had a lot of discussions about whether we should go or not go," Wilson confessed to the Boston Globe (December 9, 2001). But eventually they decided to proceed, and on September 19, with the New York State flag fluttering from the mast, they cast off.

Once on the high seas, the two men's thoughts returned to beating the record of 69 days, 14 hours for the New York-Melbourne trip, set in 1855-56 by the clipper ship Mandarin, which was carrying American prospectors to the Australian Gold Rush. The entire effort was also an educational experience for thousands of U.S. and Australian schoolchildren. Students studied a special, accredited curriculum related to the journey and received daily updates and regular audio and video reports from the two sailors. The information was relayed through Wilson's education-through-adventures company, sitesALIVE!, and its interactive Web site (www.sitesalive.com).

On November 27, Great American II sailed into Melbourne Harbor, breaking Mandarin's record by some 29 hours. "This is the first land we've seen since New York, but I tell you, it never gets dull out there," Wilson told The Australian (November 28, 2001). As he explained to the Boston Globe (December 9, 2001), "There's no place to stop. There's no help. There's nothing within a thousand miles. That means you've got to be extremely careful with everything you do - even lighting the stove."

ShareBar
Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1982, Section G

Post a Comment