Students track grueling sailboat challenge via Internet
May 14, 1999
(CNN) -- Participants in the globe-circling Around Alone sailboat race spend most of it in solitude: one sailor, one boat, and a vast ocean.
But in the latest competition, they have lots of company in cyberspace, thanks to a program called the Student Ocean Challenge.
Teachers in hundreds of classrooms across the United States are using the race as an instructional tool for such subjects as geography, marine life and weather.
The race, billed as the longest race on Earth for an individual in any sport, got under way last September. It spans 27,000 miles of the world's roughest and most remote oceans.
"It hooked me and the rest of the school and was our impetus to really push into the technology area," says teacher Pat Coleman.
The students are using their newly acquired technology to follow Around Alone via the Internet, keeping up with the grueling, singlehanded sailing race and its occasional moments of high drama.
One such moment came when one of the sailors capsized.
"We followed along to find out what was happening to Isabelle, and they cheered when she was rescued," Coleman says. "That's an immediate response ... you can't get that out of a textbook."
Students communicated with the sailors through e-mail, asking questions about the race and offering moral support during hard times, like when one sailor, Brad Van Liew, lost his boat's mast.
Teachers said one of the most valuable lessons students might take away from the race is the knowledge that anything is possible.
The Around Alone challenge is held once every four years.
Corresponent Rick Lockridge contributed to this report.
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