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27 March 2003, 01:14 pm
Trimaran Trails in Record Attempt
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China Tea Trade Clipper Ship Route
South China Sea

Fighting in light airs to get clear of the South China Sea, Great American II is now trailing the ghost of the extreme clipper ship Sea Witch by three and a half days in its attempt to set a new sailing record from Hong Kong to New York City.

Aboard their 53-foot trimaran, American sailing adventurers Rich Wilson (Rockport, Mass.) and Rich du Moulin (Larchmont, N.Y.) have set their sights on eclipsing the Sea Witch's 154-year-old sailing record on a non-stop 15,000-mile, seven-week voyage to New York. Their saga is the focal point of an interactive educational web program called sitesALIVE! to bring live adventure to 360,000 school children.

Great American II was today 1,680 miles south of Hong Kong and just 230 miles northwest of Djakarta, approaching Sunda Strait, marking the exit from the South China Sea into the Indian Ocean. On the chart, the corresponding position for Sea Witch was just west of Christmas Island, some 500 miles ahead after ten days of sailing.

"It is a very tough and frustrating passage down the South China Sea," du Moulin reported today via satellite email. "The wind always seems to die, just when we are getting used to moving along. It is rare for us to achieve 12 hours of continuous sailing without running out of wind."

Strong northeasterly monsoon winds blessed Sea Witch with a string of daily averages over 200 miles in the early days of her voyage while, apart from a couple of good days with long runs, Great American II has had to contend with light and variable conditions.

"Great American II can ghost along with very little wind," du Moulin added. "She is very sensitive and fun, but light wind sailing takes a lot of work. Just when we have set the spinnaker, the wind direction or velocity changes and we have to take it down and put up the reacher. With their associated gear, these sails are quite heavy and changes are time consuming. When we gybe the spinnaker it takes about ten minutes from start to finish and then the wind shifts and we have to gybe back. We're not complaining but ten days of these conditions with Sea Witch screaming away from us at top speed has been difficult. We know we have a challenge ahead but we believe we can still do it."

After encountering heavy commercial shipping and myriad fishing boats in the early days of the voyage, Great American II is again back in the main trade lanes and ship sightings have been frequent.

"We've seen one cruise ship, plus many tankers and bulk carriers, and always the fishing fleet - this time mostly from Borneo. There are beautiful colorful "mother boats," with long booms for nets, that are also taking care of the many smaller boats which follow them around. Fishing boat motors make the loudest pulsating, putting sound. You can hear them miles away. What would the folks from OSHA say!"

After crossing the Indian Ocean Great American II will round the Cape of Good Hope before heading north into the Atlantic Ocean on course for New York's Statue of Liberty. To beat Sea Witch's record of 74 days 14 hours, the two sailors must arrive in New York the week of May 26.

Position 27 March 2003 2°55'S 108°46'E / South China Sea

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