Rich Wilson

by Rich Wilson, Skipper, Great American III

Last week, the moon rose just after sunset, bright and full, flaunting its perfect geometry. Ringed as I am by 360 degrees of horizon, I am one with nature, one with every sunrise and sunset, one with the stars and clouds, and one with the ceaseless murmur of the waves slapping against the hull of Great American III.

My only visible companions during this voyage—whales and flying fish, squid, tuna and porpoises, together with the countless species of birds only a modern day Darwin or Audubon could identify—have kept me constantly entertained. I am sailing solo, but I am not alone.

Throughout this grueling global passage one is forever being challenged by the rapid changes in weather and the unremitting effort to stay on top of them. As the winds shift, grow or subside, sails must be realigned to accommodate the new conditions, an exercise that demands great physical exertion and mental discipline. During bad weather there is the added task of simply hanging on for dear life, while at the same time tending to mechanical and electrical systems that too often choose the wrong time to cease working.

The solitude of this solo race is eased by satellite telephone connections that allow me to communicate with friends and loved ones thousands of miles away. Still, when conditions become particularly severe, and the physical demands they require become most daunting, I must confess that I have craved the company of an additional crew member…or two, or three.

A great teacher of mine, Dr. Ray Pariser of MIT, told me once, “You need to stretch your mind.” Surely that is a great prescription for many pursuits in life.

For me, being at sea does that exactly.