Sunday, April 11, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Trip Around Cape Horn Sets Sailing Record


BOSTON - After sailing 15,000 miles, battling storms off South America and rough seas in the North Atlantic, two weary adventurers coasted into Boston recently, breaking a century-old seafaring record.

Rich Wilson and Bill Biewenga reached Boston Harbor 69 days and 19 3/4 hours after they left San Francisco. That put them nearly a week ahead of the record set in 1853 by the clipper ship Northern Light, which made the journey around Cape Horn in 76 days, 6 hours.

"I always knew we were going to make it," Biewenga said after he stepped off the 53-foot, triple-hulled Great American II.

But Wilson wasn't so sure. He knew the potential perils when he set off on the trip Jan. 27, having capsized while approaching Cape Horn on a previous attempt in 1990.

"I almost didn't come back from the last one, so it's a lot better than the last one," he said.

They hit severe weather that battered their boat off Chile. They were constantly rocked by waves as high as 18 feet after passing Bermuda. They also had to fight fatigue.

But there were exciting moments, like spotting whales or getting sprinkled with dust blown all the way from the Sahara.

During their trip, Wilson, of Boston, and Biewenga, of Newport, R.I., lived off a menu of dried fruit, canned vegetables and prepared meats.

And their voyage was an education project, as Wilson described the journey to students across the country through a computer network.

"When times got tough at sea, and they did, that was what really kept us going, knowing that there were a lot of people back here rooting us on," he said.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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