When Great American II--the 53-foot trimaran taking a run at the Hong Kong-New York record logged by the clipper ship Sea Witch in 1849--entered the doldrums, she had some breathing space.
As GAII approached the doldrums, Sea Witch was an estimated 500 miles behind. But skipper Rich WILSON (Rockport, Mass.) and Rich DU MOULIN (Larchmont, N.Y.) knew better: they knew this band of fickle winds and squalls could be a parking lot--and it could easily devour the space they put between themselves and their legendary nemesis.
After GAII emerged from the doldrums, WILSON and DU MOULIN had some bad news. While they only logged a 4.6-knot average in the doldrums, Sea Witch was much speedier, averaging a pace of 8.1 knots. But the good news was their pace was fast enough to retain a one-day lead on Sea Witch. Today, GAII is sailing in Northeast trade winds and logging some of the best 24-hour runs in her history.
"In ideal conditions, with a following breeze and flat water, the boat glides along like a toboggan on new snow,"
said WILSON today in a radio broadcast. "She was built as a cruiser/racer 15 years ago and is not capable of the sustained high speeds of today's modern racing multihulls. But she easily attains speeds of 15 knots and higher in these ideal conditions."
On May 14, GAII logged 292 miles in 24 hours--the best run Wilson and this boat have made together to date.
As of today, GAII is some 2,780 miles from New York. WILSON and DU MOULIN will have to cover that distance in 15 days in order to break Sea Witch's record. But the strong Northeast trades they are enjoying today won't last: storms, headwinds, and lulls in the breeze could easily lay in their path.
"We need to fly to have a shot at the record,"
said DU MOULIN in a satellite email report. "For the past two days, these Northeast trade winds have allowed us to put the pedal down . . . but we have to fly while we can."
For WILSON, DU MOULIN, and some 360,000 school children following their voyage, this ocean adventure could be over in just two weeks. Students have been schooled in math, meteorology, the hard lessons of life at sea, and a myriad of topics through the unique sitesALIVE! Internet-based programs Wilson has created around his record runs across the world's oceans. But even when Wilson and DU MOULIN reach their destination at the Statue of Liberty, the educational efforts of sitesALIVE.com and its companion sitesALIVE Foundation will continue to bring other live adventures to children across the nation.
While WILSON and DU MOULIN have given school children a memorable learning experience, the children have been giving something back as well.
This week, WILSON and DU MOULIN talked for 30 minutes with students at the Hommocks School in Larchmont, New York. Students and teachers fired questions at the two sailors and then ended their session with a huge group cheer. Those small voices from so far away were powerful fuel for two sailors who have sailed alone on a vast ocean for 60 days.
To break Sea Witch's record, GAII will need to reach the Statue of Liberty during the week of May 26.