Q&A with Skipper Rich Wilson at sea

Do you know all the parts of your boat?

Dear Nicolas: Yes, we do know all the parts of the boat. We obviously need some specific expertise on different parts of the boat because its too complicated to know all the specifics for each part. So, we have an electronics expert, a sail expert, and a mechanical...

read more

Q&A with Skipper Rich Wilson at sea

Mr. Wilson, do you use math when you sail?

YES! I record how far we have gone each day, or for segments of the voyage, and then calculate average speeds. I look constantly at data from the boat, like boatspeed and windspeed, and the angles (geometry) of the wind and the boat. In navigation also I look a angles...

read more

What do you do when you are not on your boat?

Dear Thomas: We spent over two years setting up this sitesALIVE program, with our curriculum, our website, and finding partners around the world who would participate with us. Also we needed to assemble our Team of Experts. I was the Founder of sitesALIVE, and since...

read more

Q&A with Experts

For future races, on these types of boats, would it be possible to rig up a stationary bicycle type of affair? The lower body would get a workout and the power generated could be linked to drive the coffee grinder pedestal winch.

Hi Jim: Thanks for your question. Bicycle type arrangements have indeed been fitted to a couple of the larger 105ft-130ft trimarans, as some of the maneuvers on these boats are very difficult singlehanded. I believe Alex Thomson did experiment on one of his older,...

read more

Q&A with Skipper Rich Wilson at sea

How long have you had asthma?

Dear Christopher: I've had asthma since I was a one-year old boy, so basically I've had it for my whole life. The big challenge when I was growing up was that at that time, there were no asthma medications for use in the home. If you had a severe asthma attack, you...

read more

When the sails get wet, does the boat go slower?

Dear Saul: Wet sails won't slow down the aerodynamic propulsion of the boat, but they do make the sail handling harder if you have to put wet sails away in the forepeak . Or if you have to hoist a sail within a sail bag out of the forepeak, and it was put away wet,...

read more

Have you seen a mermaid?

Dear Cordelia: No, I have not seen any mermaids. But your question does remind me of something that happened last night involving a curious creature from the sea. I was sitting in the cockpit looking at our Star Book by H.A. Rey since we had, for the first time in...

read more

Do you hear different sounds with the wind?

Dear Sarah: On a nice day at sea, the wind is pleasant rushing past your head and ears, and sounds nice. But on a bad stormy day, when the wind is 'whistling in the rigging', well that is just scary. And as the wind goes up in velocity, it also goes up in pitch, so...

read more

Q&A with Experts

Can asthma be cured?

In 2017 we do not yet have a cure for asthma.  We do have very effective medications that keep asthma under control, so that people with asthma can often be free of all symptoms for long periods of time. However, even then, asthma is not cured. If a person stops the...

read more

If you have asthma, should you be sailing?

If your asthma is out of control – with coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath – it would not be safe to be sailing alone around the world.  However, Rich Wilson has worked hard to keep his asthma under good control.  He takes his medications for asthma every...

read more

Q&A with Guest Skippers


Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendée Globe

What has been the hardest part of the race so far?

During a stormy night with winds of 60 knots, I had to repair the engine. The boat would take off in surfs and get laid over by waves, and I had to start the engine, otherwise I wouldn’t get enough energy for my autopilot. Miraculously, I succeeded. It’s thus also a...

read more

What do you think is your purpose for this voyage?

My goal is to inspire understanding of others. Our society tends to close itself off. Through the Vendee Globe and the emotion that it induces, what I’m trying to say is: don’t be afraid, be pragmatic to be happy, to create and to succeed. We need others and their...

read more

Q&A with Skipper Rich Wilson at sea

On average, how big are the waves that you see?

The wave height depends on how much wind there is, and for how long it has been blowing, and the depth of the water. In several of the depressions that we have had, we've had wave height up to 15-18 feet high, maybe 20 feet for the biggest. Sometimes, if the wind has...

read more

Can you describe Cape Horn for us?

Dear Julien, Cold, gray, windy, big waves, and because it is a real choke point, i.e., approaching from the west, you have very few choices, you have to get around that corner, it can be quite daunting, indeed, scary. There is a lot of anxiety I'm sure for all the...

read more

Q&A with Experts

Q&A with Skipper Rich Wilson at sea

How do the stars look at night from your boat?

Dear Annya: We have not seen many stars on this trip because of the weather, and that is very disappointing. On other voyages, I would spend a lot of time at night looking at the stars, and studying a book called The Star Book by H. A. Rey. It is the best star book...

read more

What did you like to play when you were a kid?

I liked to play soccer (which is football in every other country in the world!) I wasn't big enough to not get hurt if I played American football, and besides, the soccer seemed much more clever and intricate than the brute force of football. I also liked to play...

read more

What will you remember most about the sea?

Dear Abril: For this trip, I will remember most the camaraderie that developed between the group of boats in the Southern Ocean, in particular with Alan Roura, and with Eric Bellion, plus I had nice emails with Enda, Roman, Fabrice, and Arnaud. And also, I will...

read more

Q&A with Experts


What did you study in school that most prepared you for your profession?

– David, West Newbury MA, USA

Science, Math, & Writing

Every class I had throughout my education has been helpful to me in my profession as a geophysicist, but the ones that immediately come to mind are science, math, and writing. While in elementary and middle school I checked out text books from the library and taught...

read more

Biology

I grew up on a farm and was always interested in what was in the water in the ponds, rivers and swampy areas. I also loved going to the coast and learning more about what lived in the ocean. I liked being outdoors and doing field work and focused on science in high...

read more

Math

I was a math major in college, and those skills were certainly necessary to study ocean physics as a graduate student. Studying plastic pollution in the ocean uses those math skills as well, but I also rely on reading and talking to people outside of my immediate area...

read more

History & Math

Good question David.  My profession is operating ships like tankers and bulk carriers.  Like Rich Wilson, I grew up sailing and watching ships go steaming by. However I never expected to be in the business. My favorite subjects at school were history and math. In...

read more

Math, Physics and Geography

School, to me, was something that had to be tolerated, day by day. Commencing High School, having just turned 12, and leaving just three years later, meant that education was seriously lacking when at age 15, I joined the Royal New Zealand Navy as a Boy Seaman....

read more

Exercise Physiology

I  had a double major as an Undergraduate in Exercise Physiology and Education. I then went to Graduate School for Education which allowed me to become a certified Physical Education Teacher for Grades K-12. In the 1980’s when I was in college there was no major for...

read more

Archaeology & Art History

If I'm to be honest about that, I didn't so much plan for my profession but just followed my heart when it came to what I wanted to study. I pursued archaeology because I love looking at objects that communicate facets of history, and in particular those that relate...

read more

Student Teaching Courses

The courses that I studied in school that most prepared me for my job as a teacher were my student teaching courses where I was able to apply all of the teaching concepts that I learned with real students in real classrooms.  I learned to be flexible in my approaches...

read more

Math, Physics, Geography, Meteorology & more…

As you watch the progress of Rich and the other skippers in the Vendée Globe you can see that success requires having a diverse set of skills. Expedition leaders need math and geometry to be able to navigate and make calculations. Knowledge of physics, electronics,...

read more

Journalism

Journalism--my classes in both high school and college, and actually working on real newspapers in both schools--best prepared me for what I do today. As an author and naturalist, perhaps my most essential skills are careful observation and asking smart questions, and...

read more

Theater History

In college I studied theater history, and had to write many long research papers. Learning how to structure a research project and use primary materials proved invaluable in all my later work. I like to think I’ve picked up a skill or two since those days, but the...

read more

Q&A with Skipper Rich Wilson at sea

Can you get lost at sea? What would you do?

Dear Mateo. Yes you could get lost at sea . There are no street signs out here. Once you are out of sight of land, you can wonder what direction land is. But we have good tools for dealing with where we are. Nowadays the GPS system (Global Positioning System) is the...

read more

Q&A with Skipper Rich Wilson at sea

Why does your boat have a tilt?

Dear Jack, All sailboats will tilt because the wind pushes on the sails, and tries to push the boat over on its side. That is what the keel is for, as a counterbalance force against the force of the wind on the sails. Question submitted by Jack R., West Newbury MA,...

read more