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The Quest to Sail Around the World Solo on a 40ft Monohull

Race Commentary


A True Slam Fest
November 7, 2005

It's a true slam fest aboard Gryphon Solo as Joe Harris and his co-skipper, Josh Hall deal with gale force conditions in the notorious Bay of Biscay. The wind is blowing 30 knots from the southwest and is forecast to increase during the early hours of this evening. A combination of strong wind, relatively shallow waters and massive, confused seas are conspiring to make it a less than pleasant day at the office. To add to their woes Joe is suffering from severe bruising to his ribs caused by a bad fall, and the switch that operates the canting keel has broken off making it difficult to operate one of the most important pieces of equipment on the boat. In short, they are getting their money's worth.

"We broke the switch that operates the hydraulic keel," Joe reported in a satellite phone call. "We can operate the keel OK on one tack, but when we tack over we need to move the keel by hand and that's a bit of a problem." The hydraulically operate keel can be moved from side to side to add stability to the boat when they are sailing upwind. It's a critical piece of equipment especially in the severe headwinds they are currently experiencing, and to make it worse for Joe, he is having to hand crank with very painful bruising to his abdomen. "I took a bad fall that first night out and smashed my ribs. I thought that I had broken them but they seem to be OK. It's just very painful when I have to wind anything and it's really hampering me on deck when I have to crank the sails."

Just 48 hours into the race the close match race between Gryphon Solo and Artforms has resumed. On paper Artforms has a narrow lead but the next 24 hours are critical. There is a cold front approaching from the west bringing the strong headwinds and heavy rain squalls. The wind will increase throughout the night until the front passes overhead. At that point the forecast is for the wind to swing to the northwest, in other words, come around behind allowing the fleet to set spinnakers and enjoy a smoother, and most certainly, faster ride south. Shortly after Gryphon Solo and Artforms entered the Bay of Biscay they split tacks, Kip Stone on Artforms opting to go south while Joe and Josh on Gryphon Solo have made some westing. On a pure distance-to-go basis Artforms is currently 16 miles ahead but the strategy aboard Gryphon Solo is clear; the first boat through the front into the new breeze will gain an edge as they will be able to ease sheets and pick up speed on a direct course south. There are some variables, however, as there usually are in this big game of chess. If it's a slow moving front Gryphon Solo will enjoy the conditions for a while before the crew on Artforms gets them. They will have to make up the 16 mile deficit and some for the strategy to pay off. If the front moves quickly overhead the benefit being to the west will be lessened, especially if Artforms get the switch in wind direction soon after Joe and co, and they will likely retain their lead. It's a cat and mouse game as both boats line up for a fast run toward the trade winds.

The rest of the Open 50 fleet is dropping astern leaving the two old rivals to battle it out at the front. To make their day a bit more interesting they will be keeping an eye out for the Open 60 trimarans that started on Sunday. These space-age machines took off from Le Havre doing 30+ knots and will overhaul most of the monohulls by daybreak tomorrow. If there is any consolation to Joe and Josh it's that no matter how bad things get on board Gryphon Solo, it's ten times worse on a big trimaran bashing along at 25 knots. Small consolation I know, but when you are wet and cold you have to always seek out the bright edges.

Via Satellite: New Audio Posted Today

There are two new audio recordings at [ CLICK HERE TO LISTEN ] Joe discusses their strategy to go west toward the approaching front as well as the damage to their keel and his ribs. The next update will be on Wednesday morning unless there is breaking news.

Written By:
Brian Hancock

GryphonSolo2 Campaign / Joe Harris Ocean Racing
471 Bridge Street, Hamilton, MA 01982
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