Saturday, 2:15 PM
By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff
Rich Wilson feels a little bit more alone these days. If that’s possible.
The Marblehead man has been sailing a 60-foot racing yacht around the world by himself for 2-1/2 months through stormy seas. Earlier in the race, he had company: Jonny Malbon, another competitor in the Vendee Globe race, who was sailing a mere 100 miles away, facing the same winds and seas.
“We had a great time talking on the telephone almost every day across the Indian Ocean and in the storms and stuff because were were only about 100 miles apart. [Each of us] could understand what the other guy was going through,” Wilson said yesterday in a satellite telephone interview from his boat as it made its way across the South Pacific toward Cape Horn.
But now, Malbon has dropped out after damage to his mainsail. His boat is in New Zealand and Malbon has returned to England. And Wilson’s nearest competitors are 1,500 miles in front and 1,500 miles behind.
“I lost my running mate there. ... So that adds to the load of stress, for sure,” Wilson, 58, said in the interview from his boat, Great American III.
Wilson said Malbon had called him yesterday morning and he appreciated it. "He understands exactly the role that he was playing and was kind enough to call," Wilson said.
Wilson was 900 miles west northwest of Cape Horn, moving at 7-1/2 knots under a blue sky with thunderheads in the distance. He was looking forward to rounding the cape and heading up the coast of South America. “You’re at least back in civilization,” he said. He estimated that he would arrive back at the starting point of the race, Les Sables D'Olonne, a port on the coast of France, in about six weeks.
The race began Nov. 9. The boats headed south through the Atlantic, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, then sailed through the Indian Ocean and into the Pacific. The leaders are now forging through the Atlantic again, heading back to France.
Wilson said he’s had to endure seven or eight storms that have mercilessly tossed the boat -- and him inside it. With other boats getting banged up and dropping out, Wilson has advanced from 20th place in mid-December to 10th place yesterday, but he’s still more than 5,000 miles behind the leader.
Wilson is the president of sitesALIVE!, a company that works to connect students to learning adventures on land and sea. He is participating in the race to share his experiences with schoolchildren through the Newspaper in Education program.
His log entries, photos, and podcasts can also be found at the sitesalive.com website, where he also answers students' questions. The site also contains essays from a team of experts on topics related to his voyage.