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Joe Harris: From Famine to Feast

Published on January 14th, 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 14…

After three days of very light or no wind, the Wind God Aeolus has woken up and turned on the fan out here on the Agulhas Plateau, which is about 400 miles south of the tip of South Africa and about 560 miles north and east of Prince Edward Island (will have to study-up on that one), a remote outcropping in the middle of nowhere. All this comes on Day 6 following my re-start from Cape Town and Day 49 in cumulative time at sea.

Yesterday, as I studied the weather, I could see that I had to cross a cold front to get to the fresh south westerly wind. The GRIB weather file called for 22 knots of wind, but I had a feeling at the transition point to the new weather it would be more and indeed it was. At about 2:00 am this morning, it went from 8 knots from the East to 30 knots from the South West in about 10 minutes, with some rain attached.

Although I had been waiting for this shift to occur and a gybe, I had a bit too much sail up, so scrambled for the next hour to put three reefs in the main and change from the solent jib to the smaller staysail. These late night, high wind sail changes never fail to get the adrenaline pumping and I moved slowly and carefully around the boat as I made the changes. After I had the situation stabilized, I put some water ballast in to reduce the heel angle and fell into my bunk around 4:00 am to catch a little sleep before dawn.

The boat is moving well now at 9-10 knots in 23 knots of wind at a True Wind Angle of about 80°. However, I can hear GS2 whispering to me, “Hey Dad, I really want to go downwind! Can I? Please, Please?” I know if I could turn her downhill by about 40° we would be absolutely flying, but I am trying to head South East, so alas have to keep my “American Pharoah” reined in for now. As Neil Young said, “There Comes a Time.”

I am hoping that having paid my dues and battled my way back down south here to the Roaring Forties, the prevailing Westerly wind will dominate and allow me to make up some miles after a slow first week from Cape Town. The down side is the constant crashing and banging as the boat lurches along and blue (cold!) water coming over the deck constantly, requiring full foul weather gear for any trip on deck. Makes for a lot of changing and mopping water out of the boat to keep my small living area dry. But I will take it over flat calm any day!

Background: As a result of Joe’s 11-day detour to Cape Town (Dec 28-Jan 8), While Joe will no longer be able to officially break the existing non-stop 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:

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