Joe Harris: Assessing early performance
Published on July 12th, 2022
After a start line collision reduced the doublehanded Class40 fleet from seven to six teams, the Globe40 competitors have completed the 2000nm first leg, and are preparing for the 7000nm second leg from Cape Verde Islands to Mauritius. With that to start on July 17, American competitor Joe Harris shares this assessment of their early performance:
1. We definitely could have been more aggressive as we sailed on a tight reach from the start in Morocco towards Madeira, where we ended up losing a bit of ground. However, we were already experiencing auto-pilot problems and changed from one ram to the other, only to find the second was malfunctioning as well.
So we had to hand steer the boat nearly the whole time and had numerous incidents of the pilot simply going off – which it normally never does – sending the boat into a crash tack or gybe, which is a real pain in the ass to get out of, particularly at night when it is easy to get disoriented.
The mainsail and jib are backed, the boat is heeled over at an extreme angle and you have to slowly release one thing at a time to get the boat out of irons and going and then pointed in the right direction. It sucked and it must have happened a dozen times as either the pilot failed or Roger or I made a mistake due to exhaustion.
We finally replaced one of the rams with an old ram that was slightly leaking hydraulic fluid but it remarkably worked and performed well for the last four days. But we los a lot of time due to the pilot issue.
2. I think we could have sailed more aggressively in terms of the sail plan, but quite honestly I am still in my solo sailor headset where you aim to get the boat going fast, but not out of control. As a solo sailor your top priority is taking care of the boat and yourself, while in double-handed sailing there is much more pressure to load on the sail and push the limits.
I think we had our smaller A6 spinnaker up at times when others had their big A2 kites up and they were going faster, while possibly wiping out from time to time. Maybe somewhere in the middle is philosophically the right place to be but you can be heavily rewarded for pushing the limits and you can also pay the price of trashing a sail or some part of the boat.
My mantra is the “you have to finish to win” so am taking the long view, but I definitely feel the pressure to be more aggressive and Roger and I talk over our sail and course choices and decisions frequently.
3. The boat performed well downwind, particularly after we (Roger) made a huge effort to get all the weight out of the bow and stacked everything in the stern. When it was windy we loaded aft water ballast as well which really stabilizes the boat and allows the pilot to steer without wiping out in gusts up to 25k. However, the newer boats are more “bow up”in attitude and I think particularly the Moroccan boat #133 goes very smoothly and easily downwind with less effort. Not much to do about that!
4. We try to keep clean and dry living conditions below so we can get food and rest, but sometimes everything seems wet and the exhaustion is overwhelming. Again, I think back to my solo circumnavigation where I would get the boat set up so I could simply monitor it, rather than continue to push it. Double-handed racing requires more energy and aggression, so for 62-year old guys, you have to dig pretty deep to find that extra gear…. at least I do.
I have dropped about 20 pounds since I left Maine – partly due to stress and partly due to physical exertion and eating less. This ain’t easy. Luckily my co-skipper Roger is a strong, 38-year-old guy who has a high capacity for hard work and is learning this game quickly. And we share the bow work and all the chores, as everything is easier with two guys versus one.
As all legs count toward the cumulative score, the longer distances more heavily weighted. The first leg, which took seven to eight days to complete, had a coefficient 1 while the second leg is ranked as a coefficient 3 leg which is projected to take somewhere around 35 days.
The inaugural Globe40 is an eight leg round the world race for doublehanded Class40 teams. The first leg started June 26, with all legs counting toward the cumulative score with the longer distances more heavily weighted. The race is expected to finish March 2023.
Sao Vincente, Cape Verde Islands
Port Louis, Mauritius
Auckland, New Zealand
Papeete, French Polynesia
St Georges, Grenada