The American trimaran Great Aventure II was today 89 miles ahead of the 1855 record-breaking track of the clipper ship Mandarin, after trailing by 280 nautical miles just a week ago.
Carrying sailing adventurers Rich Wilson and Bill Biewenga, the 53-foot trimaran is sailing non-stop from New York City to Melbourne, Australia in a bid to break the 69-day record set by the clipper ship in the winter of 1855-56. The passage time has never been bettered by a sailing vessel.
"Mandarin, departing New York in December, had mostly westerlies and northerlies for the first 9-10 days, and fresh breezes, including a full gale, to drive her south," Wilson said in an email message from his boat today. "With downwind being her strong suit, she really legged out the miles in the early going, and we've had to fight to catch up. We had a 500 mile two day run that brought us back into contention.
"When we left New York on September 19, we had the wind against us and continued to beat into southeasterlies for essentially the first nine days. Having grown up sailing in Marblehead, where a southeasterly was regarded with the same curiousity as an exotic princess at a dinner party, I could imagine the odds of a week of southeasterlies in the same proportions as my chances of winning Powerball.
"We made some mileage for the first couple of days because we had strong winds, but then it went light. We had one day where we rolled up our big reaching headsail to save it from the constant slatting and banging. We were becalmed and had no steerage way at all, and did a circle inadvertently".
Great American is now on course and sailing south in the northeasterly trades, logging speeds of 12 to 15 knots, as her crew looks for the best path through the doldrums, which lie ahead. "We are continuing to trim like a dinghy, and to study the weather reports and info intensely, looking for any edge to be able to compete with the great sailors aboard Mandarin," Wilson said.
"It is amazing when one is far from land to imagine the great ship out here. Although so much of our technology is far advanced from hers, she and her crew would have experienced the same wonder and beauty of the sea as we do. We're happy to be here working hard to stay in such admired company as hers." Great America's position at 6:00 AM today, Thursday, was 17 degrees 4 minutes North, 33 degrees 27 minutes West. She was 2,675 miles east of Miami, Florida, and had covered 2,525 nautical miles since leaving New York
The website tracking the voyage of Great American II is www.sitesALIVE.com. The Ocean Challenge voyage is one of 10 educational programs bringing real-life interactive learning experiences to school children through the World Wide Web.