Boston, MA - Forty-eight hours ago American Joe Harris was feeling the pain of seeing his rival at sea, Kip Stone, pull away to an 80+ mile lead in The Transat Race, a solo sprint across the Atlantic Ocean. Today, Harris is nipping at the heels of Stone's powerful Open-50 racing yacht, having chipped away at the miles between the two competitors leaving less than 1 mile of sea between them at the race's midpoint.
"I am invigorated by the challenge," said Harris from 52 degrees North. "I feel really good about my tactical moves in the last two days. Wells Fargo-American Pioneer is an unbelievable racing machine. I am pushing her so hard! I feel we are right on the edge between control and chaos."
Joe Harris is sailing a boat that is a full six years older than Kip Stone's Artforms. Wells Fargo-American Pioneer has more than 100,000 ocean miles logged since her launch in 1997, and the same carbon fiber mast that was originally installed. In contrast, Artforms is the newest breed of Open-class yachts, designed by the renowned group of Owen Clarke, creators of Ecover, Skandia (previous Kingfisher) and Pindar AlphaGraphics. Artforms was launched in 2003 with its distinct oversized dagger boards and slim hull, optimized for upwind conditions, while the beamy Wells Fargo excels while reaching.
So how did he do it and can he continue?
Joe played a low pressure area very well. He stayed just north of it and gybed at an opportune moment to stay clear of the windless region in the middle. Now he is left trying to claw himself free of the low pressure center and into the strong northerly winds of 40+ knots which will push him south and west toward the Flemish Cap (made famous by The Perfect Storm). Harris' Northerly position on Stone is a potential advantage. As they get free of the center, Harris should be rewarded with more breeze. It is likely that Harris will have 45 knots of reaching conditions, which will favor Wells Fargo-American Pioneer. Although, there will certainly be more low pressure systems to face before the Boston finish line, which currently stands 1,396 miles away.
Conditions have been very rough, with Harris being swept off his feet on deck many times as he tries to change a sail in the darkness of the mid-Atlantic. He is relying heavily on his harness gear to move around the boat. The competition in the Open-50 monohull class looks to be divided into the battle for first place between Americans Stone and Harris, and the battle for third place between Frenchmen Jacques Bouchacourt and Roger Langevin.
Carnage in the racing fleet of Open-60s has been dramatic in the last few days with Sodebo skipper Thomas Coville knocked unconscious, a rogue wave completely rolling Jean-Pierre Dick's Virbac, and today's capsize of Bernard Stamm on Chemin閑s Poujoulat / Armor Lux plus Vincent Riou's dismasting aboard PRB. These traumatic events have left many race boats crippled, but thankfully all skippers are unharmed.
To follow Joe across the Atlantic and to get daily updates from the Wells Fargo-American Pioneer yacht, please visit www.gryphonsolo.com. Joe will be feeding the site with diary entries and photos taken aboard the yacht. Photos and video are available upon request.
In The Transat race each sailor skippers his or her craft alone from Plymouth, England to Boston, Massachusetts. The race is known as the oldest and most prestigious solo sailing race in the world and only the most serious sailors with the highest proven stamina and mental toughness venture to participate in this extreme challenge. This race is the original, and arguably the toughest of trans-ocean races, taking competitors nearly 3,000 miles upwind across the treacherous, North Atlantic.
Joe Harris, 44, is an accomplished businessman and experienced sailor who has set his sites on competing in several professional offshore races including the grand task of 5-Oceans, a solo race around the globe previously known as Around Alone. Harris currently holds the position of Chief Financial Officer at New Boston Fund, a $1.5 billion real estate investment and development company. His primary sponsors include Wells Fargo Bank, Goulston & Storrs, and New Boston Fund. He is also a husband and father of two young boys.