Time running out for 40-foot record attempt

Published on December 27th, 2018

(December 27, 2018) – With the help of crowdfunding, Alex Alley (GBR) is aiming to break the Solo Non-Stop Around the World Record in his 40-foot yacht – Pixel Flyer. His goal is to better the 2013 record set by Guo Chuan of 137d 20h 01m 57s, but he’s now dealing with adversity that could scuttle the effort. Here’s his update.

After a great send off from Haslar Marina (Gosport, UK) on Christmas Eve, it was a perfect sail right down the English Channel towards the official start line between the Créac’h lighthouse on the island of Ushant and the Lizard lighthouse in Cornwall. I even had dolphins accompanying me along the way. It was port tack all the way, hitting 14 knots at times.

However, as I got to about 40 miles from the Ushant start line on Christmas Day, I put in a tack to get to the inshore traffic zone for the start and the wind instruments went haywire, still saying I was on port tack when I quite obviously wasn’t.

I switched over to the other wind sensor at the top of the mast and that displayed no boat speed! I rely on all this data for my autopilots to work properly and steer the boat. Without them it doesn’t work. Disaster. I checked everything below decks and even rewired it all direct from each wind sensor direct to the computer – still the same result. The problem must be with the sensors at the top of the mast.

A decision was made to head to Brest to see what I can fix. Eight hours later I arrived at 0500 yesterday morning. With a great response from everyone back home with words of support, I started to see if I could get help. Unfortunately, it was of course Boxing Day (Dec. 26) and nobody was around to call for technical support.

The wind ‘wands’ can suffer from water ingress which causes failure and I suspect this is the issue. In an ideal world I would simply get two new wands and head back out, but at $1000 and $2000 each I’m just not in a position to do that.

I am hoping today that I can get some technical advice from the UK and Mike from Ocean Electrics in Haslar has one spare wand. Now it is a case of getting that to me (hopefully by early tomorrow morning). However, the vertical unit is proving more difficult.

We have found a secondhand one for sale in France, but cannot get hold of the person selling it, and we are also not sure if it is compatible with my instruments. So fingers crossed it is and we can get hold of them quickly as time is rapidly running out.

I will need to start in a week or so, otherwise it will be too late to get through the Southern Ocean safely as it will then be Autumn by the time I get to Cape Horn with more chance of storms and less daylight.

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