Harken Derm

For the Record: 5000 Miles Done

Published on January 28th, 2019

(January 28, 2019; Day 29) – On Saturday, January 26, Alex Alley (GBR) passed the 5000 mile mark on his quest to break the Solo Non-Stop Around the World Record in his 40-foot yacht – Pixel Flyer. He got Pixel flying at 17.6 knots, not bad for a 40′ monohull. That’s a big chunk of mileage out of the expected 27,000 mile route.

Meanwhile, there have been various conversations about his progress versus the current record set by Chinese sailor Guo Chuan in 2012-13. Guo’s route was much shorter but he spent much of that in very light winds, so couldn’t make the most of being able to get south into much faster sailing conditions.

Guo Chuan had to make his way in and out of Xindao where he started, which meant sailing up through Indonesia where there is not much wind, certainly no trade winds. When he started he would have had to sail south-east across the Pacific to Cape Horn, again no trade winds to help him. Between the Horn and South Africa, Guo Chuan had to head north to a waypoint that effectively stopped him again making use of the Southern Ocean to Cape Town.

The round the world route, taken by direct measurement and going around at latitude 60 South, is 21,600 mile per the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) rules.

Alex’s record route is based on the Jules Verne record that Spindrift 2 is currently pursuing. The reason Alex is sailing a much longer route (approximately 27,000 miles) is that the WSSRC shortest distance is down the other side of the Atlantic by way of Africa, which is shorter distance but much longer in time.

Alex will be lapping at around 40 South and not 60 so that adds more mileage, but again it is all very fast sailing. Providing he can keep everything together, so far all is looking good.

The forecast for the next 3 days is looking very slow, Alex needs to get south, through a ridge of high pressure.

Highs are centered at 32 S 15 W (1032 mb) and 43 S 48 W (1022 mb).
28 0000 Z 4 – 6 knots E
28 0600 Z 4 – 6 knots ENE
28 1200 Z Calm
28 1800 Z Calm

With such light winds the direction is likely to be quite variable, so he needs to keep trying to generally go south. Slow going, but there is a trough developing to the west (27 S 58 W, 33 S 55 W, 37 S 52 W), which will eventually bring north-west breeze.

Update from Alex on January 25, 2019:
It’s too hot on deck at the moment to do much outside so I am sitting below decks with the hatches open forcing some breeze through and trying to dry off (from the sweat!). It’s much cooler down here, however before it got too hot I managed the sail change, serviced the winch that was making a grinding noise, and put some sikaflex around the base of a couple of stanchions at the back of the cockpit.

I have been getting water in the aft compartment (I took out 1.5 buckets two days ago and another 1/3 bucket yesterday). I had a really good look for where it may be coming in and the only place I can see really is the stanchion base in the cockpit floor at the back. The water floods over this when I am sailing fast so I suspect there is the problem, so while all is dry on deck I put a load of sike around the base so hopefully that cures that little issue. [This has now been done and the leak has stopped].

I have also got the two ‘doors’ open to the back to try and get some air in there and dry it out, it is like a steam room down there, very hot and humid with water dripping from the ceiling as you crawl around. I want to get it as dry as possible because there are some electrics in there that I want to keep dry, not least of which are the autopilots.

On that note, I have switched over to the hydraulic one this morning to give the other a break for a day or so. I will keep switching every few days to keep them both working and not wear one out. Lots of reading and drinking here, just going to make another 2L bottle of drinking water.

Update from Alex on January 27, 2019, A Typical Day:
It was a little cooler last night as I tried sleeping outside under the cuddy in the cockpit to get some cooling air. It sort of worked but then the wind got up and water started to pour across the cockpit so had to go back downstairs again, was nice while it lasted though. Yes, it is very hot and sweaty down here. Once the wind eases right off in a day or so then I will put my bed outside in the sun to give it a bit of a airing.

I don’t have a routine as such. Pixie is such a good girl in the trade winds that she pretty much sails herself. Typically, I get an alarm at 0600 GMT to do the report for Nick Leggatt [weather router], fill in the log, and check everything is ok outside. Then I try and get back to sleep. I am tending to get much of my sleep during the night, probably because it is slightly cooler although still I don’t think I have managed any more than a 3 hour stint.

I have breakfast and a cup of tea at 0900 local then I tend to drive for an hour or two. I am constantly checking over things and listening out for strange noises. Then I usually go below to cool off, read, make and drink water, download weather, and ponder over that along with Nick’s emails. I try and sleep but usually not for long as it is hot. I am only eating two meals a day (breakfast plus one other) instead of three. I packed plenty of surplus food. Emailing, reading, and any bigger jobs (repair/remedial) get done during the day when it’s light unless they are urgent.

My second meal is usually late afternoon (after my 1630 check in alarm). Then I helm again for a bit, make more water and electricity as required. During all this the wind is up and down so I am changing and adjusting sails as required.

In the squalls I usually ease traveller then bear away, ease the main, and then if it continues to build put in a reef. Once the squall has passed, I reverse everything again. These come through anytime day and night and I get woken either by the wind alarm (or radar alarm picking up the rain) or just feeling the boat heel over more than usual. Sometimes I take the helm during the squall if it a particularly big one, so no set pattern to the day as such, no watch system like on Team Stelmar [Global Challenge].

It’s currently 0700 here and 30 degrees. I have just put the hydrogenerator down to make some electricity. I will probably try and grab another hour nap before making tea and breakfast. I have definitely lost weight on my legs and a little elsewhere but not that much real activity going on, guess the real weight loss will come when it gets colder. Hope that gives you a bit of an insight in to my day.

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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, beginning his quest December 31 when he crossed the official start line between the Créac’h lighthouse on the island of Ushant and the Lizard lighthouse in Cornwall in the English Channel.

With his start at 14h 31mins 09 sec (subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council), if he is to beat Chuan’s record (and he has to beat it by at least one minute), then his deadline is to cross the line again going the other way, on at 10h 32mins 06 secs on May 18, 2019.

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