Joe Harris: No More Record

Published on December 23rd, 2015

Aboard his Class40 GryphonSolo2, American Joe Harris departed Newport (RI) on November 15 in a bid to break the 40 Foot Monohull Solo Non-Stop Round the World Record. Here’s an update from Joe on December 23…

Yesterday was a tough day. It was very stormy, with enormous seas and winds between 30 and 45 knots throwing the boat all over the place. It was hard to simply stand up. In the middle of this, I began to smell something burning. It smelled like melting plastic… and that’s what it turned out to be.

The “black box” regulator that sits under my navigation seat for my hydro-generator system that takes the AC current produced from the propellers spinning off the back of the boat and turns it into DC current to charge the batteries, had overheated and fried its circuit board.

I knew I smelled something bad, but it took me a while to locate the smell and then get the whole thing apart. When I finally did, I knew in a second I was screwed. The two hydro-gens that look like little outboard engine legs hanging off the transom of the boat – just port and starboard of centerline – had provided roughly 90% of all the electricity I have used to date on the trip. They are wonderful “free” energy in that they consume nothing and produce lots of electricity when the boat goes fast.

I don’t know exactly why the regulator box got so hot and ended up melting the board. The best theory is that since the boat was going very fast, the hydro props were spinning fast and produced more electricity than the regulator and batteries could handle, and that excess energy turned into heat, which melted the circuit board.

Unfortunately, I don’t have either a spare regulator box onboard, nor do I have enough diesel fuel to charge the batteries for the estimated 85 days left in the voyage without the benefit of the hydros’ contribution.

For this reason, I have elected to divert GS2 to Cape Town, South Africa, which is about 1,000 miles due East and not far off my current path, in order to replace the burned regulator box and get my hydro-gen system going again.

I plan to make the repairs as quickly as possible in Cape Town – without touching land – which should allow me to get back out on the race course with minimal time lost. However, this stopover will mean the end of my official record attempt in the eyes of the governing World Sailing Speed Record Council due to stopping to receive “outside assistance”, which is not allowed for a solo, non-stop circumnavigation record attempt.

While this is a big bummer no question, I have to remember that my goal began as simply sailing solo around the world safely, with the record piece being a bonus. I am now returning to those basic goals, and feel good about being out here for the right reasons. To be clear, I do intend to pursue the record of 137 days “unofficially”, as I still think I can beat it, even with lost time to the stopover – and wouldn’t that be cool?

Thanks for your ongoing support. Game is still on. Happy holidays to all!

Background: While Joe will no longer be able to officially break the existing record of 137 days, 20 hours, 01 minute, 57 seconds – set by Chinese sailor Guo Chuan in 2013 – he will continue to unofficially better the mark. Finishing in Newport, Joe will need to average 195 miles per day, or approximately 8.2 knots, to improve on Chuan’s pace. Website:

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