04 Nov 2016

A Solo Sail Around the World


(photo by Theophile Trossat for The New York Times)

Prolific sailor Rich Wilson (MBA 1982) is embarking on a potentially record-breaking trip this Sunday. At age 66, when he departs from port in France, he aims to become the oldest person to ever complete the Vendee Globe yacht race—a non-stop, solo trip around the world.

A New York Times story on Wilson notes that the race will be his second, having placed ninth in the 2009 competition. After completing the race, he spoke to the Bulletin about the significance of the event.

BULLETIN: Most people have never heard of the Vendée Globe race. Why is it special?

WILSON: Some call it the Mt. Everest of the seas. But when I finished the race, I was told that while 2,700 different people have summited Everest, I was only the 46th person ever to sail alone around the world nonstop.

It’s a huge event in France, with daily radio, TV, and newspaper coverage. Some 300,000 spectators attended the start of the race; months after it was over, 120,000 people showed up for the awards ceremony, which featured fireworks, lasers, and rock-star treatment for the participants…even for me! I was the old guy with an older boat in a fleet of professional sailors with corporate-sponsored, state-of-the-art craft. I knew I wasn’t going to win, but that wasn’t my purpose. As a 10-year-old French boy said to me, “L’important c’est de participer.”

A former teacher, Wilson will use this year’s race as an educational opportunity, allowing students around the world to follow his voyage with a series of lesson plans.

“With the partners we have, we certainly have the potential to reach two or three million students,” he said, up from about 250,000 for the last race, all of them in the United States.

The website provides a teacher’s guide and a 15-week curriculum focused on science, math, geography and history. Wilson said he expected to spend about two hours a day working on material for the site, which also provides input from and access to a team of 15 experts.

That connection to students, he tells the Times, helps keep him company on what could be a lonesome mission.

“I know when things get really bad, particularly in the Southern Ocean, that the kids help bring me home,” Wilson said.


Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1982, Section G

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