01 Feb 2002
Thumbs Up Down UnderTopics:
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."
Class of MBA 1982, Section G