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Water Ways

By Ray Pendleton

Saturday, June 3, 2000

Isle sailor’s on round-
world solo mission

TOMORROW morning, a sailor halfway around the world from his home in Hawaii will embark on a severe test of his yachting skills as he begins a single-handed race across the Atlantic Ocean. The sailor's name is Bruce Burgess.

If the name sounds familiar, you may recall Burgess and another Hawaii sailor, Les Vasconcellos, made news last summer when they placed first in the double-handed division of the Transpacific Yacht Race. They, in fact, not only won their division, but they beat boats twice the size of their 30-foot sloop, aptly named Two Guys On the Edge.

Burgess has now decided to follow in the wake of an American sailor of a hundred years ago, Joshua Slocum, who became the first person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed.

But, instead of making the voyage a three-year expedition, as did Slocum, he intends to enter the demanding Vendee Globe single-handed race around the world.

This incredible sailing contest begins off the west coast of France in November, and over a three-to four-month period, its international fleet of some 20 boats runs a course south and then east, around the turbulent southern oceans of the world, past Cape Horn and back to France.

To qualify for that epic race, Burgess will cast off tomorrow and begin the 40th Europe 1 New Man Star Transatlantic Race from Plymouth, England, to Newport, Rhode Island, the oldest single-handed race in the world.

UNFORTUNATELY, while preparing for this challenging ocean crossing, Burgess, has had a major diversion. Unlike his European competitors with corporate sponsors, he - the lone American in the race - has had to depend on personal resources.

This has meant that, so far, except for a few donations, he and his volunteer helpers have had to make do with what he could afford: an Open 60 yacht, now named Hawaiian Express.

The Open 60 had raced in and won the first Vendee Globe in 1989 and placed third in the last race in 1996. With a lack of sponsorship money for a new boat, Burgess shrewdly opted for racing one with a proven track record.

However, after purchasing the boat in France and sailing her to Plymouth, across a storm-tossed English Channel, Burgess quickly became aware of some of the equipment repairs and replacements needed on the decade-old boat.

"Hawaiian Express limped into port on Sunday with a broken timing belt in the engine and a tear in the mainsail," said his wife, Gail Liston-Burgess.

"I have four days to get everything ready . . . I just hope we can get it done on time," Burgess told his wife. "I am still talking with potential sponsors, but I have a mainsail to find and an engine to repair, and at the moment, that is the focus.

"I'm a bit disappointed we haven't achieved the sponsorship support we had hoped for, but I am committed to these races and once corporations see what this campaign can do, I know the sponsorships will follow."

If Burgess' campaign lives up to his expectations, his Hawaiian Express will be a leader in tomorrow's transatlantic race and easily qualify for the Vendee Globe.

Then, once he has qualified and is once again the lone American entry, I would hope even the most unimaginative corporation would be able to picture its logo somewhere on Burgess' Hawaiian Express.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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