SI Vault
Edited by Steve Wulf
November 16, 1987
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November 16, 1987


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On a recent episode of Jeopardy, the quiz show on which contestants must supply the questions to answers, the category was Jews in Sports, and the answer was "This pitcher was the youngest player ever voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame." The contestant's response was, "Who was Hank Aaron?"

Wrong. As host Alex Trebek pointed out, "I'm sorry, but Hank Aaron was not a pitcher."


Two and a half years ago Ernst Aebi, a Swiss artist living in New York City, gave his rebellious 18-year-old daughter, Tania, a choice. She could either go to college, or she could sail around the world in a boat he would buy for her. She took him up on the boat, and on May 28, 1985, she set sail alone from New York on her 26-foot sloop, Varuna.

Last Friday, Tania Aebi completed her 27,000-mile voyage when Varuna arrived in New York Harbor. Had Tania not given a friend an 80-mile lift between islands in the South Pacific, she would have been the youngest sailor and first American woman ever to circumnavigate the globe alone. Still, those kinds of records don't seem as important as what she learned along the way. At a triumphal reception at the South Street Seaport in New York City, Aebi was asked what was the most important lesson of her adventure. "The world is a pretty nice place," she said. "As long as you respect people, you find that everybody's the same—just like you."

When she started out, Aebi was hardly an accomplished sailor. But out of necessity she became an expert in celestial navigation, seamanship and electronics. She had some harrowing moments: She collided with a cargo ship near the Suez Canal, and she almost capsized during a storm in the Mediterranean. On the last leg of her journey she temporarily lost contact with a satellite tracking system, prompting the tabloid New York Post to rush into print with the headline LOST AT SEA. She also fell in love with a Swiss sailor named Olivier Berner, whom she met on the Pacific island of Vanuatu. Berner, in his own boat, sailed along with her from Vanuatu to Malta, and though they parted in September, he was in New York last week to greet her, along with friends and family.

Said Ernst Aebi, "The result of this trip is infinitely better than my wildest dreams. In lieu of college, she got so much more."


With the exception of its hockey team, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., isn't known as a powerhouse of collegiate sports. But the Engineers do have an intimidating cheer:

E to the x, dy, dx
E to the x, dy
Cosine, secant, tangent, sine
Square root
Cube root
Log of pi
Disintegrate 'em

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