Joe Harris: On the Road Again

Published on January 9th, 2016

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. That plan, however, got derailed when a stop in Cape Town was needed for repairs to his energy systems. Here’s an update from Joe on January 9…

After a 11 day stop in Cape Town for repairs, in the immortal words of Willie Nelson, I am indeed “On the Road Again.”

After arriving in Cape Town on Monday night (Dec 28), the work began with replacing the hydro-generator converter box but soon also included the alternator and then the batteries. I think we finally came to the end of my charging system woes and everything seems to be working well at the moment – knock wood. It was certainly frustrating to not be able to get things done before Cape Town shut down Thursday (Dec 31) at noon before the New Year’s holiday weekend, but such is life.

When we did get the alternator back from the repair shop on Monday (Jan 4), and when it did not work properly after installation, we had to track down another. I threw the old one into the sea in frustration. We also determined that the batteries were no longer properly holding a charge, so we had to replace them on Tuesday. When we finally had things back together and tested on Wednesday, a cold front blew in and caused the delay in departing until Friday, January 8.

Many thanks to marine electrician Chris Hutchinson, Harbormaster Steven Bentley, and my old friend Peter Claypool for helping to track down all the bits and pieces necessary to make GS2 once again ready for sea.

The reality of Cape Town weather in January is that it blows hard out of the Southeast constantly (the wind is nicknamed the “Cape Town Doctor”), so as Ken Campbell from Commanders Weather says, “If you are heading East, Cape Town is an easy place to get into but a very hard place to get out of.” So we decided that even though I knew I would take a shellacking the first 12 hours, a Friday night departure was necessary to avoid the next cold front coming in on Saturday.

So Claypool tossed me my lines off Quay 6 and I headed out into Table Bay… in time for the Doctor to open up a can of Whoop-Ass and unloaded gusts up to 40 knots as soon as I cleared the breakwater! I motored to a spot in the lee of the mountain and got my act together and set three reefs in the mainsail and the staysail and headed out. Holy Cow…I was immediately pounded by winds over 30kt – gusting over 40kt – and the boat was very difficult to manage. I was very nervous that something was going to break, as I was hard on the wind trying to head SE towards the Cape of Good Hope into this incredible wind machine.

Suffice it to say that last night was a long night with little rest and a lot of hand steering, as the auto-pilot would get overwhelmed in the gusts and the boat would round up dangerously. I also had to watch out for shipping traffic – as it was fairly busy – and it reminded me a bit of the English Channel in a big blow. At daybreak the wind began to moderate into the high teens – and the sun has come out and it is actually pretty warm – which I think might be the Agulhas current as the water temp is 75-degrees versus the usual 68-degrees.

So, with all of your collective permission, I would like to “unofficially” pick up the record attempt where I left off which was on Day 43 and still see if I can beat the record of 137 days based on elapsed time at sea – so not including the 10 day stopover in Cape Town. That would mean I will need to complete the remaining 2/3 lap of the planet in 94 days at sea or less – and mathematically that is certainly feasible.

Time to get to work…


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. Website: www.gryphonsolo2.com

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