Wilson recounts Cape Horn capsize on 26th anniversary

Rich Wilson à bord de son IMOCA
© B. Gergaud

“It's beautiful outside but 26 years ago it wasn't so beautiful,” he said. “Steve and I were onboard Great American, a 60ft trimaran, on our first voyage from San Francisco to Boston via Cape Horn. We were capsized 400 miles west of Cape Horn in seas officially estimated at 65ft, and we had 80 knots of wind on the anemometer before it stopped working. We had been sailing for three days before that without sails, under bare poles, dragging 1,000ft of spare line just to try to slow the boat down. It was Thanksgiving Day and we were capsized in the middle of the morning. An hour and a half later the boat was thrown back upright by a wave, the first time in history that had happened as far as anyone had heard. We were dismasted and the boat filled with water.

Seventeen hours after that the New Zealand Pacific cargo ship from New Zealand found us in the middle of the night, and with seas still running at 45ft, were able to rescue us in the dark of night. It was an incredible effort by the captain and crew of that ship. They upheld a maritime tradition to go to the aid of a ship in distress, putting themselves in danger to save us. They did save us and we were able to sail another day. I'm very pleased to say Murray Lister, chief mate about New Zealand Pacific, is now serving as one of our team of experts for our schools programme.”

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