Joe Harris: Entering the no mistake zone

Published on December 12th, 2022

American Joe Harris along with Roger Junet are competing in the Globe40, an eight-leg doublehanded round the world race in Class40s. Seven teams were at the beginning on June 26, with five teams now on the fifth leg from Papeete, Tahiti to Ushuaia, Argentina.

After starting on November 26, Harris files this report from onboard GryphonSolo2 on December 11, 2022:

We are now just 1,400 miles from the infamous Cape Horn, and we just had a tough day. At 0600, I wake to a cold and increasing wind and sea state and quickly go to the computer to review the forecast for the day, which is for winds in the 20s gusting to 30. However, we are already seeing high 20s windspeed and it looks to be increasing.

We have too much sail up.

We have had 3 reefs in the mainsail and our workhorse/jackknife A3 fractional gennaker up for quite a while as it is a downwind, heavy air sail, but we have left it up too long and it is getting abused. Just as I am thinking about this, the sail rips all the way down the luff (front end) of the sail and now we have a shit show on our hands.

I call Roger on deck and we discuss what to do, as the situation is basically out of control and the sail is shredding itself before our eyes and streaming into the water.

We decide to drive the boat deep downwind and sheet what is left of the sail in hard behind the mainsail and then partially release the tack line which has the furler attached to it and try to wrestle the sail onto the foredeck in the lee of the mainsail and then down the forward hatch.

Some of the sail goes in the water and I fight to get it back over the lifelines as Roger lowers the halyard and we stuff the sail, along with a fair bit of seawater, down the hatch. We have to detach the furler at the bow and untie the sheets before we can get the sail fully below deck. We lose it a few times into the water as we struggle on the pitching foredeck, but finally it is all below deck and we heave a sigh of relief that the damage wasn’t worse.

As we think the wind is going to stay at about 30 knots and we are going downwind, I elect to unroll the Solent, or primary jib. It isn’t long before the wind is gusting to 40K, then 45k and we clearly should have put up the smaller staysail instead of the larger solent jib. The boat is rocketing along at 15-26k of boat speed and careening down the waves, somewhat overpowered and out of control.

I am kicking myself again for having too much sail up, a mistake I don’t make very often, but have now made twice trying to be aggressive and make gains in the race rather than take care of the boat. Bad decisions.

So we continue surfing along in winds of 40k and seas of 25-feet and it is a wild ride. I have my heart in my mouth and am praying the Solent jib does not tear. Two torn sails in one day would be a very bad day. Luckily, the Solent holds together.

After about three hours of piloting this bucking bronco and freezing my ass off, the front passes and the wind moderates to mid 20s, gusting low 30s and I think we are out of the woods.

We are now in a favorable WSW wind as we head SE towards Cape Horn. I realize we have entered the CH “no mistake zone” and I will have to be better attuned to the rapidly changing weather. This small but powerful low-pressure cell that nailed us was not initially forecast to be nearly so strong and took us somewhat by surprise, but we have to be prepared for the worst down here.

The lesson is to take care of the boat, our sails, and ourselves in this cold, hostile “Roaring Forties” environment. With one week to go before rounding the Horn, now is a good time to be reminded of this.

Race detailsEntriesTracker

Note: The scoring format gives extra value to the longer legs.

Standings (after four of eight legs):

The inaugural Globe40 is an eight leg round the world race for doublehanded Class40 teams. 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. The race is expected to finish March 2023. Seven teams were ready to compete, but a Leg 1 start line collision eliminated The Globe En Solidaire with Eric and Léo Grosclaude (FRA) while the Moroccan team of Simon and Omar Bensenddik on IBN BATTOUTA retired before the Leg 2 start.

Tangier, Morocco – June 26

Leg 2 start: Sao Vincente, Cape Verde Islands – July 17
Leg 3 start: Port Louis, Mauritius – September 11
Leg 4 start: Auckland, New Zealand – October 29
Leg 5 start: Papeete, French Polynesia – November 26
Leg 6 start: Ushuaia, Argentina
Leg 7 start: Recife, Brazil
Leg 8 start: St Georges, Grenada

Lorient, France

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