Race Commentary


Off to a Rollicking Start
November 5, 2005

Under relatively clear skies the dynamic duo of Joe Harris and Josh Hall aboard Gryphon Solo got off to a rollicking start of the 4,500 mile Transat Jacques Vabre. The conditions off Le Havre were good with a 20 knot southwesterly wind blowing as the combined Open 50 and 60 fleets set off on a three week sprint to Brazil. Race officials reported that class rival Defi Vendeen, raced by Jean-Francois Durand and Karen Leibovici, were first across the line, but other reports gave the start to Gryphon Solo.

"We got a great start right at the navy destroyer that served as the committee boat," Joe said in a satellite phone interview shortly after the race got underway. "The start was right off the beach. We had good speed and were sailing at 12 knots with a reef in the mainsail and staysail set." The fleet sailed on a close reach toward the first turning mark and their position atop the leaderboard was confirmed when Gryphon Solo rounded the Metzinger marker buoy in first place. Their nemesis, Artforms, rounded two boatlengths astern with the rest of the Open 50 fleet in close contention.

For now the sailing is relatively pleasant. They will parallel the Normandy coast sailing in a north westerly direction to a turning mark off Cherbourg before entering the English Channel proper for an unwelcome crash and bash fest. The forecast for the next four days is less than ideal. The south westerly headwinds will increase to 35 to 40 knots and oscillate between the west and south resulting in a very confused seaway. The combined strong headwinds and lumpy seas will make the sailing difficult. "We have the storm jib hanked onto the inner-forestay in anticipation of the wind increasing," Joe explained, "but we are a long way off needing it. We can deep reef the mainsail and be quite comfortable, at least for the short term."

Two hours into the race Gryphon Solo remained firmly in first place, but Joe acknowledged that it was going to be tough to stay ahead of Artforms. "They are not far behind right now and seem to be going slightly faster than we are, but that's to be expected," Joe said. Artforms is a newer boat than Gryphon Solo and has been optimized to sail upwind. The strategy aboard Gryphon Solo is to remain close to Artforms and to sail a conservative course. As soon as the wind comes aft the tables will be more even giving Joe and Josh the opportunity to strike out on their own. It's early days yet and as the sun slowly set over the French coast the fleet settled into for a long, dark night.

New Feature! Audio Recordings from the Boat

There are two audio recording of the satellite phone call with Joe shortly after the start available on the front page of Unfortunately there is some distracting interference, so we apologize for the poor quality of the recording and will endeavor to get better quality audio for the remainder of the race. The next update will be on Monday morning unless there is breaking news.

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