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Game over for Alex Alley record attempt

Published on March 12th, 2019

(March 12, 2019; Day 72) – Alex Alley (GBR) has been forced to abandon his attempt to break the Solo Non-Stop Round the World Record in his Class40 Pixel Flyer. He ended his bid shortly after crossing the longitude of Cape Leeuwin off the south-westerly mainland point of the Australian continent due to damage with his mast track and mainsail cars.

Alley was over half way, having sailed nearly 14,000 nm solo since his departure on December 31, 2018, but had been trailing the record breaking pace.

Here’s his report from today:
Most of you will have noticed that a few days ago I took a more northerly course than may be expected and I have been going a bit slower ever since. We have been trying to deal with an issue onboard – where the mainsail attaches to the mast. There is a track that runs up the length of the mast, and cars run up the track which attach to ‘batten boxes’ on the mainsail.

A few days ago it was almost impossible to get the main down to reef it – I had to winch it down with such force that i was expecting either the sail to rip in half or the track to pull off the mast or the line to break. Eventually, inch by inch, the sail came down. I since noticed damage to several cars and some of the track. i have tried swapping things around but i still get the same jamming issue.

This means that I can no longer hoist the mainsail all the way up without it jamming – the bigger issue with this is getting it back down again, which is very important when the wind increases (especially for the expanse of Southern Ocean between New Zealand and Cape Horn) and I need to reduce sail by reefing and lowering the sail again. I am currently in 3rd reef, which means that in light winds I am very slow (like now in 7kts wind!).

I have been trying various solutions but with no success as the track itself is damaged with a nick out of it, and possibly more further up, and three cars are also damaged with bent pins. I have come to the very disheartening conclusion that the only option is to head for a port and try and sort it out – but this means giving up on the Record. I simply can’t carry on with 3 reefs all the way and still be viable against the Record.

I have been running everything around and around in my head and trying various solutions. I have already dealt with a lot, inevitable wear and tear on such a challenge:
• windex failure before the start
• autopilot failure – rebuilt it
• watermaker – rebuild filter
• hydrophone broke – made a new one
• patched up two spinnakers
• replaced spinnaker tack line
• repaired reef lines and code tack line replaced tack shackle
• spinnaker jury rigged tack for mainsail hole in solent – still need to fix it!
• rewired the radar
• rewired hydrogenerator
• rebuilt broken valve for ballast tanks stopped leaks from both aft
• ballast tanks repaired mainsail outhaul
• had a knockdown
… and that’s just what I can think of writing this email.

I have done just over 250 sail changes and sailed 13,910 miles so far, but will be over 14,500 by the time i reach land.

So it is with great regret, and a deep feeling that I am letting you all down, that I am going to have to retire from the record and head to port in Australia. I still have a long way to go to reach a port (maybe Adelaide) so I will leave the tracker running so you can follow me if you still want to. Sorry and thank you for your support.

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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 which started and finished at the city of Qingdao in Shandong Province, eastern China.

Alley began his quest December 31 at the traditional 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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