Non-Stop 72-day Voyage Finishes at the Statue of Liberty

A legendary sailing ship record that has remained untouched for a century and a half toppled on May 27th when the trimaran Great American II sailed into New York Harbor, 72 days out of Hong Kong. American adventurers Rich Wilson (Rockport, Mass.) and Rich du Moulin (Larchmont, N.Y.) were greeted by cheering family and supporters as their 53-foot sailboat passed the Statue of Liberty.

"Two and a half months at sea is a long, long time for a classroom session . . . but it was worth every minute!" said Wilson, skipper of the Great American II, as he and du Moulin stowed their ship's sails at Chelsea Piers on Manhattan's West Side. For their entire journey, two men have been communicating with 360,000 school children who were following a series of lesson plans linked to the voyage.

Great American's time from Hong Kong on the 15,000 mile passage to the Ambrose Light Tower off Sandy Hook at the entrance to New York Harbor was 72 days 21 hours 11 minutes and 38 seconds. Her time eclipsed the record of 74 days, 14 hours set by the extreme clipper ship Sea Witch in the China tea trade in 1849.

"This voyage was never straightforward," said Wilson, recounting their day by day battle with the Sea Witch. "Every time we turned around, we were behind that great clipper ship . . . We have lots of appreciation for those great sailors who went before us. Even with the technological advances we enjoyed, we learned not to take any of that for granted. The ocean is a great leveler."

This was the first time that Du Moulin, a former America's Cup racer, has undertaken a passage of such duration. "I had to have an element of competition in this," said du Moulin. "I had to have the daily benchmark--so I was keeping all these statistics, my own tally. Until we got to the Northeast tradewinds off of Brazil, ten of the eleven fastest daily passages were held by Sea Witch. The Sea Witch could handle the heavy seas of the Indian Ocean. She could charge through them doing 300-miles days, one after another, while we had to slow down in those conditions. Our advantage was in the light stuff. Taking Sea Witch on in the trade routes was a bigger challenge than people realize."

On arrival, both men said time with their families and fresh food were their top priorities as they prepared to return to their normal business life after weeks cooped up in the tiny cabin of their wave-tossed boat. Without the benefits of refrigeration they were limited for most of the voyage to a diet of freeze-dried, preserved and packaged food.

Fatigued but buoyant, Wilson reported their arrival off New York Harbor to the Sandy Hook pilot vessel on Tuesday night after a frustrating day of slow sailing in calms and light airs that followed in the wake of wet and squally weather that drenched New York.

Great American's return to New York Harbor marked the completion of a brace of record passages - the just-finished voyage from Hong Kong, plus one from New York to Melbourne, Australia last year when she smashed the record set by the American extreme clipper ship Mandarin as she carried prospectors to the Australian Gold Rush in the winter of 1855-56.

Wilson, 52, lives in the tiny seaport town of Rockport, north of Boston. Du Moulin, 56, lives in Larchmont, New York.