Completing The Vendée Globe
By Rich Armstrong
Neither age nor health issues kept 66-year-old American sailor Rich Wilson from completing this extreme solo around-the-globe race.
Rich Wilson, a 66-year-old former high school math teacher who has struggled his entire life with severe asthma, became on February 21 the oldest person to ever complete the Vendée Globe, a 24,000 mile solo sail around the globe with no allowance for stopping or assistance. The race started way back on November 6.
In this grueling race, considered a test of extreme individual endurance and the ultimate ocean race, a major accomplishment is just to complete the course, let alone win. Wilson finished in 13th place — but he finished. Every day requires constant vigilance and effort, allowing sleep in only naps typically less than an hour. Wilson posted the following on his log after a tough night of sailing in January:
"When I awoke to a different motion of the boat, I knew I had to get up, but I just wanted to cry and to stay where I was ... in the sleeping bag, a stocking cap over my eyes. ... I was so, so tired after the 12 sail changes yesterday, including going from 3rd to 2nd and then 2nd to 1st reefs, and then 1st to full main, the first two essentially without stopping. But I got up. ... When the boat needs your attention, you must go, now."