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All the way to...

Posted by Tom Haines, Globe Travel Writer  November 20, 2008 02:44 PM

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... the west coast of Africa. For skipper Rich Wilson of Marblehead and the other solo sailors in the recently begun Vendee Globe, only the world to go.

Here's a video of what life on the sea alone can be like...

The race began Nov. 9, and students or anyone with an interest can get a great education of life at sea by following Rich live online at Sites Alive.

I had a chance to speak with Rich as he prepared last spring. Part of that conversation appears in a q & a this Sunday in the Boston Globe Magazine.

And Rich phoned in to the Globe's Martin Finucane from on board the Great American III this afternoon. You can hear audio of that conversation here.

It has been a rough few days for Rich and all the sailors, as this excerpt of a diary entry he posted yesterday at Sites Alive details:

"This afternoon I finally lowered the reacher and hoisted the big genaker. I targeted a full-on effort to do the swap in 30 minutes. Made it to the minute. Part of my fatigue through midday was also that in jibbing this morning several times, the last one had a sheet go over the side

and get jammed in the windward port rudder, between the blade and the cassette that holds it. This was difficult to resolve. As Francis Stokes once said, "the sea finds out everything you did wrong", and I made a mistake in letting the extra sheet go over the side, then to catch up on the rudder.

The rudders are supposed to kick up out of the water if they hit something hard enough, but the rudders on this boat don't come out of the water all the way. So after the sheet hit the rudder, it only came out part of the way. A rudder that is partially out of the water is a bad situation, because if it gets hit by a wave from the side, it could break. I knew I had to get the rudder out of the water as quickly as I could.

I put a line on the rudder and hoisted it clear of the water. Then I hung out over the stern with the boat going about 10 knots, and I pulled on the line until I was able to work it free. Going downwind as we were, the boat can use the effect of both rudders, so we were lucky not to have a wipeout or gybe.

A bird came aboard late afternoon. I took a short video and will send it in. It's never a good sign, either the bird is sick, or injured, or old, if they can't just fly along at sea, and need a lift. Hopefully, we'll get to within 20 miles of the first Cape Verdean islands, and he'll go, to try to get to land. He's beautfiul, white, preening, and when I go to the cockpit (he's standing on the stern now), he'll fly to the masthead and stand up there, hopefully taking care with our instruments."


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