rags300 Racing a Ghost Ship
by Rich Wilson
Walker & Company, NY, 1996

1997 Scientific American Young Reader’s Book Award

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Front Jacket:   Rich Wilson braved some of the most treacherous seas in the world to sail his trimaran Great American II on a journey that fulfilled a cherished dream. Racing to beat a speed record set by the clipper ship Northern Light in 1853, Rich and his partner, Bill Biewenga, sped from San Francisco around Cape Horn at the tip of South America and then north to Boston. Rich had already attempted this voyage once and nearly lost his life in a storm off the Horn. Yet he was determined to try again and to share his experiences with young people across America. He linked Great American II to classrooms and homes around the country via Prodigy’s online service and weekly newspaper updates. Throughout the journey, Rich and Bill answered children’s questions about the craft of sailing, the hardships they faced, and the ocean environment they explored, bringing real-time adventure into schools and homes. In Racing a Ghost Ship, Rich’s gripping storytelling and Bill’s bold photographs capture the beauty and excitement of the ten challenging weeks at sea and the triumphs of the journey homeward.

Back Jacket:  The author is a world-class sailor and the founder of Ocean Challenge, Inc., a corporation organized to interactively link adventures, expeditions, and events to students in classrooms and families at home. In 1980, Rich was the skipper of Holger Danske, the overall winner of the Newport-Bermuda Race, and in 1988 he sailed solo across the Atlantic aboard his trimaran Curtana, winning Class V in the Carlsberg Singlehanded Transatlantic Race. In 1993, after completing his journey on Great American II, he was awarded the First Annual Christmas Seals Hero Award by the American Lung Association of Massachusetts. Rich lives in Rockport, Masssachusetts.

Front jacket photograph by Billy Black

From School Library Journal,
by Caroline Ward (Nassau Library System), Uniondale, New York

Wilson, Rich. Racing a Ghost Ship: The Incredible Journey of Great American II. 50p. diag. maps. photos. reprods. glossary. index. CIP. Walker. 1996. Tr $16.95. ISBN 0-8027-8417-8. LC 96-1914.

Gr4-7 — A sailing adventure around Cape Horn with a different twist. In 1993, Rich Wilson and one crew member sailed the 54-foot trimaran Great American II from San Francisco to Boston with a dual purpose. First, they were racing against the 76-day record of the clipper ship Northern Light, which made the same journey in 1853. Secondly, the race had an educational mission; it was interactively linked via a weekly newspaper column to 10,000 classrooms, and students could come “on board” while Rich wrote a log and answered their questions on the Prodigy computer network.

These questions and Rich’s answers are inserted throughout the book, extending the text and giving a voice to the on-line participants. The lively, well written account balances technological information with the thrill of adventure and is illustrated with dramatic full-color photographs. Though the journey is relatively uneventful (and yes, they do beat the old record by six days), the chapters describing a 1990 attempt when they lost their boat and almost their lives is positively hair-raising. Books describing similar escapades tend to be shelf-sitters, but this one makes a real attempt at kid appeal and succeeds.