Plymouth, England - The Wells Fargo - American Pioneer yacht will hoist its sails and take off on the grueling 3,000-mile Transat race today when the fleet of 37 high-tech racing yachts are signaled by tennis ace Anna Kournikova at 14:00 local time. Today's launch marks the first time in history that this classic transatlantic solo yacht race will land in Boston, Massachusetts, making it particularly significant for American Joe Harris as he will be racing home. It will also mark Harris' very first attempt at a solo transoceanic voyage.
The Transat's international fleet of solo sailors will begin their grueling journey from England to America in the waters directly off the Plymouth breakwater, crossing an invisible line marked by the HMS Tyne from the British Royal Navy and a French Royal Navy ship. The sailors will head west to the Eddystone Lighthouse, which must be kept to starboard, and then on to round a mandatory waypoint five miles off The Lizard, the most southerly point on mainland Britain. From there they head directly into the vast and challenging North Atlantic.
Joe Harris will skipper the 50-foot Wells Fargo - American Pioneer yacht through its rigors of crossing the fierce North Atlantic. He has created quite a partnership with the vessel, having lived and slept aboard her for 22 of the last 60 days. Wells Fargo-American Pioneer is designed for fast, rough, hard sailing. It is the most powerful open-class yacht ever designed by famed French naval architect, Jean-Marie Finot. The yacht has reached speeds of more than 30 knots and covered 345 miles in a 24-hour solo run, the fastest ever aboard a 50-foot monohull.
"I am preparing for the task at hand and it is easy to get psyched out," said Joe Harris as he made final preparations to the boat in Plymouth. "I am trying to stay focused on weather and routing strategy. My family has been here for the last few days and their support has been wonderful. From here on out systems are a go."
Joe Harris is married to portfolio manager and working mom Kimberley and has two young sons, Griffin, 6, and Emmett, 8 months, who reside in Hamilton, Massachusetts. As Harris races across the Atlantic to the finish line, he finds comfort in knowing that his family, friends and colleagues will be there in Boston Harbor to greet him after 3,000 miles alone. This year's Transat event is the largest professional fleet of racers that the race has ever seen. Divided into classes based on boat configuration, the race includes the radical ORMA 60s (trimarans), IMOCA 60s (monohulls) and 50-foot class (both monohulls and multihulls). Harris is competing in the 50-foot monohull class and faces tough competition from fellow American Kip Stone. Sailing a brand new Open-50 racing yacht called Artforms, Stone has just completed a rigorous training schedule sailing her nearly half-way around the globe to the start line. Like Harris, Stone has been largely working in an office for the last dozen years and this race marks his first foray into the pro racing environment. The competition is certain to be fierce amongst these two characters - Harris with an older proven steed and Stone on a brand new thoroughbred.
The Transat race began in 1960 and is held every four years. This year's race marks the 41st anniversary of what has become the largest and oldest of extreme solo sailing competitions, attracting some of the most well-known, highly regarded sailors.