Living , Modern

Rich

Wilson

1950

A Vendee Globe sailor, Rich Wilson founded sitesALIVE!, a non-profit organization to connect K12 classrooms to adventures and expeditions around the world. Believing that an ocean voyage, with its drama, uncertainty of outcome, and vast breadth of content, would make an ideal event from which to create a “learning adventure” to excite and engage students in Science, Geography, and Mathematics, Rich created the project Ocean Challenge in 1990.

He and one shipmate would tackle the clipper ship record set by Northern Light in 1853 during the Gold Rush from San Francisco to Boston by way of treacherous Cape Horn. They would be linked by newsletter and radiotelephone to schools during the 15,000-mile non-stop voyage. Their voyage around Cape Horn would become part of maritime lore. Four hundred miles short of Cape Horn, driving under bare poles for three days in seas that built to 65 feet (official estimate), the 60′ trimaran Great American capsized on Thanksgiving Day. In a first in recorded maritime history, the massive trimaran was then thrown upright by the sea an hour later. Seventeen hours later, in a dramatic midnight rescue, the giant containership New Zealand Pacific rescued Rich and shipmate Steve Pettengill.

Returning to Boston after an 18-day voyage aboard NZP to Holland, Rich visited a dozen schools that had participated in the “learning adventure”. The effect of bringing his real-world survival story into classrooms was so stunningly effective, that Rich Wilson decided to try for the record again in 1993. He and shipmate Bill Biewenga succeeded in that voyage.

Upon Rich’s return, PACT95, an America’s Cup syndicate, sponsored Ocean Challenge, Inc. to produce an education program like Ocean Challenge Live! for the Science & Technology of the America’s Cup. The program was published in 27 NIE programs, reaching 21 million readers and 300,000 students weekly for 11 weeks, and with a pioneering website on the new, fledgling Internet in January 1995. At the same time, the American Sail Advancement Program, similarly seeing what Ocean Challenge Live! had done, sponsored Rich and his team to produce a program to promote awareness of sailing. Ocean Challenge partnered with Class Afloat, a high school class taking a full year of academic studies aboard the tall ship Concordia, while sailing around the world, to provide content from their round-the-world voyage for a curriculum in US schools of Geography, Social Studies, World History, and more. This program, Class Afloat Live! continued, live and interactive, each year for 9 years. The program evolved into a series of educational programs now available through the Sites Alive Foundation and www.sitesalive.com.

Rich Wilson’s mission is simple: excite, engage, and teach students.

Achievements:

  • 1980 – Newport-Bermuda, Holger Danske, Overall Winner.
  • 1988 – C-STAR, Curtana – Class V Multihulls – 1st.
  • 1990 – San Francisco-Boston, Great American capsizes off Cape Horn.
  • 1993 – World Record: San Francisco-Boston, Great American II vs. Clipper Northern Light, 69 days.
  • 2001 – World Record: New York-Melbourne, Great American II vs. Clipper Mandarin, with Bill Biewenga, 68 days.
  • 2003 – World Record: Hong Kong-New York, Great American II vs. Clipper Sea Witch, with Rich du Moulin, 72 days.
  • 2004 – The Transat: Plymouth-Boston, Great American II; Class 2 Multihulls, 2nd place, 15 days, solo.
  • 2008 – 2009 – Vendee Globe: Great American III; finished 9th of 30 starters, 121 days.
  • 2016 – 2017 – Vendee Globe: Great American IV; finished 13th of 24 starters, 107 days.

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