Joe Harris: Knowing When to Slow Down

Published on January 30th, 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 30…

As I approach both Cape Leeuwin, Australia and the chronological estimated half-way point of the journey on Monday Feb 1 (Day 67), I am also facing a building gale right in front of me. I was first warned of this yesterday by Commanders Weather who advised me to “Slow Down!” so that the storm would have time to weaken before I got to it.

I was initially bummed at this advice because I was going along very fast – say 10-13k – with surfs up into the higher teens – and was gobbling up the mileage. However, when I sat down at my nav table and pulled down a 4-day GRIB weather file and saw the storm, I quickly realized what they were talking about and the wisdom of their advice. Thank goodness for their “eyes in the sky” broader vision of the weather world- I am very lucky to have them looking out for me.

unnamed(1)So I took down the staysail this morning and put up the orange storm jib for the first time in a long time and tucked the third reef into the mainsail and slowed the boat to about 7.5k. When I run my routing now at 50% of normal expected speed, it shows the worst of the storm (i.e. winds of 50 knots or greater) blowing itself out just before I get to it, so I am looking at 35 to 40k instead of 50-plus. Huge difference. Really hope that is the case.

So now I am holed up in the cabin for the next two days as it is already blowing 30k and will continue to do so for the next 48 hours. So lots of reading, drinking hot tea, and anxiously looking out the cabin windows as the seas build and we get bashed around by the waves. Squalls roll through periodically and the wind increases and a driving, pelting rain falls, which makes it feel like you are going through the car wash having punched the “deluxe clean” option.

I suit up in my foul weather gear every 2 or 3 hours and go out to check on everything, trim the sails, raise or lower the hydro-generators and do a few exercises to get warm and relieve the cabin fever. It is an interesting existence. I am reading a good book called, “All the Light We Cannot See” about World War 2 in Germany and the occupation of France, and one of the characters tells of being shut inside a house for four months in occupied St. Malo, hiding from the Germans. So I guess things could be worse…

So I hope you all are getting outside and enjoying the snow (if you have some) and getting some exercise. My time is steadily improving in the 40 foot dash from the bow to the stern, but I could use a little more runway! I will report again once the storm passes on Monday night.

Background: As a result of Joe’s 11-day detour to Cape Town (Dec 28-Jan 8), 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. However, he remains hopeful to unofficially better the mark. Website:

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