Joe Harris: Can’t Always Get What You Want

Published on February 16th, 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 February 16…

12743937_858391460938500_7529236464952128745_nIt is Day 82 at sea but Day 2 after getting around Stewart Island at the southern tip of New Zealand on February 14. That’s when my sponsor CBL Insurance – based in New Zealand – sent a helicopter down to take some pictures and video of GS2 making the big turn. It was at dawn, and the light was a very cool orange against the backdrop of the lush green forest vegetation on Stewart Island.

I was very happy to achieve the NZ milestone and sailed East on a beautiful sunny day, but unfortunately since then I have encountered very light winds and been becalmed twice since Sunday. I am now going upwind in 15 knots of wind from the North East, which is the exact opposite of the prevailing westerlies which I was visioning rapidly propelling me towards Cape Horn. Oh well, “you can’t always get what you want,” as Mick Jagger reminds us but hopefully, at some point, I can get what I need.

On board GS2 the machine continues to whir, with regular sail changes, foul-weather gear changes, naps, meals, computer time, coffee/tea, etc. I am well and truly acclimated to this life and I do appreciate its general simplicity and 24/7 rhythm. When duty calls there is no choice but to gear up and get on deck ASAP, and when the job is done – a reef, a headsail change, whatever – it’s nice to come back down below to the generally warm and dry cabin for something hot to drink and a chill in my self-made bunk on top of a bunch of sail bags with bean bag cushions and my sleeping bag over the top. Aaaah… life’s simple pleasures.

I have done a cursory inventory of food and it does appear I have enough for another 60 days (hopefully less), as I am targeting 20 days to the Horn and then about 36 days from Cape Horn back to Newport. As we get closer to Cape Horn I can estimate ETA better, and maybe do a count-down, as Cape Horn is truly the Mt. Everest of sailing.

Passage around Cape Horn – particularly solo – inducts one into a very small club of sailors, that will be quite an honor to join. Because it is so far south (55′) and the water depth shoals up rapidly from the extremely deep Southern Ocean to the shallower area around Tierra Del Fuego, Chile, Cape Horn represents a unique navigational challenge and many ships have been lost to the fury of the seas in this region.

I will be working closely with Commanders Weather to hopefully find a weather window to get around Cape Horn with the wind at my back in the prevailing westerlies, but not so strong that the seas become liquid mountains cresting and breaking in endless unforgiving procession.

It should be interesting and will represent the biggest milestone in the journey, and with its passage comes a left turn back into the Atlantic Ocean and past the Falkland Islands, heading back up to the Equator to cross my outbound path. Very cool.

So much to come but for now its back to the salt mines here as GS2 is calling for a reef as I type at a 30′ heel angle and my tea spills over!


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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