Joe Harris: Countdown to Record Attempt

Published on October 30th, 2015

JOE HARRISLongtime shorthanded sailor Joe Harris of South Hamilton, MA has set his sights on breaking the non-stop solo around the world record for 40-foot monohulls. The record of 137 days, 20 hours, 01 minute, 57 seconds was set in 2013 by Chinese sailor Guo Chuan. Monitored by the World Sailing Speed Record Council, Joe Harris will start and finish at Newport, RI. Here is an update from Joe:

Much to report, as the preparations for my upcoming Round-the-World solo sailing record attempt continue. I have been working on the following projects:

• Scuba gear: I invested in some proper scuba gear and went for a few dives to be better prepared to go over the side to cut away stuff that may have caught on the keel or rudders. With the “T” shape of my fin keel and bulb, it seems somewhat inevitable that something will get caught that I can usually get rid of by sailing the boat backwards, but not always.

• Food: My basement floor is covered with index cards numbered by my daughter Sophie from 1-130, for the expected number of days alone at sea for my trip. We have been filling in breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for each day, and the pile of food has become enormous. I am trying to strike a nutritional balance but there is only so much one can do with freeze-dried “astronaut chow”! Chocolate is my savior…and Jameson J.

• Paperwork: Brought up to date the boat documentation and my expired passport- just in case I have to stop somewhere. Dealing with the U.S. government agencies is always fun.

• Boat prep: Continuing to check and/or renew just about every part on the boat, with the able assistance of Main Yacht Center and Rob Windsor. We completed a thorough review of the boats’ electrical system yesterday and have created a good schematic diagram and guide to all fuse locations to assist in trouble-shooting.

• Sails: Performed a sail check with Mark Washeim from Doyle Sailmakers Long Island and ended up changing the hank system on the staysail; few minor changes to the mainsail reefing system and an alteration to the head ring of the Code Zero. Trying to foresee any areas of chafe that may develop over the long haul. All good for now.

• Emergency “ditch kit”: I have checked and purchased a lot of new gear for the kit that would be needed in the event the boat was damaged and I had to get into the life raft. I have an older Iridium satellite phone that will live in this bag along with flares, water, food and other survival stuff. The guys at Life Raft and Survival in Tiverton, RI are always helpful in getting this kit together.

• Medical kit: I obtained some prescription meds from my primary care doc to address many different ailments- hopefully I will not use any of them. The med kit is extensive in the event I should need it.

• Photography and video from the boat: Working with my long-time colleague Blake Jackson from Headway Consulting and Technology in Marblehead, MA, we have purchased and installed a new GoPro video camera, as well as an Olympus camera and I-Phone 6s. Hopefully I can master all this new technology to send pictures and video from the boat while underway through the Iridium Open Port satellite communications system. This has not been my area of expertise in the past, but as many people have said, “you should have plenty of time” to master it!

• Tracking: I have purchased a tracking device from YB Tracking so that people can easily follow my upcoming voyage. The tracker lets people see the position of the boat on a map as we go around the world. Pretty cool.

• New foul weather gear: I have been working with Martha Parker at TeamOne Newport to upgrade my foul weather gear. Martha has been extremely helpful in offering her experience and advice on the best gear out there, and we will have branded GryphonSolo2 gear available for purchase at the upcoming open house at Newport Shipyard on November 7th . More info to follow on this.

So, the plan is for Rob Windsor and I to sail the boat from Portland, Maine to Newport, RI next week and get ready for the open house event on Saturday November 7th from 1-4p at Newport Shipyard. We will have food and drink and everyone is welcome to tour the boat and watch some fun demonstrations of how the boat works.

From 3-4p we will have speakers Ken Campbell from Commanders Weather to discuss the route I will be sailing and the expected weather. Then Merf Owen from Owen Clark Design group will discuss the evolution in Class 40 design and where GS2 fits in the spectrum. Noted sailing author and Cruising World magazine Executive Editor Herb McCormick will then provide a historical perspective on solo sailing races from the past that have started out of Newport such as the BOC Challenge and Around Alone races.

Target departure date remains on or about November 10th- 11 days- subject to a positive weather window to allow for a fast start. 137 days or less is the bar.

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