What a difference a couple of days make. Just 48 hours ago Joe Harris and Josh Hall on Gryphon Solo were hurtling upwind in nasty conditions and now they are on a fast track south with a fresh breeze at their back and ahead, the arc of the horizon like outstretched arms just waiting for them. "Things look pretty good for now," Joe reported in a satellite phone call. "The wind is from behind and we are making good speed. The sun is even out and we have been cleaning the boat and sorting things. Josh is busy repairing the keel switch. He's playing Mr. Fixit today."
The Gryphon Solo crew are lucky to have come through the last gale relatively unscathed. Many of their fellow competitors were not so lucky including Kip Stone on Artforms who suffered sail damage and was forced to return to France to make repairs. They have since resumed racing but the race is most definitely over for six other competitors including four multihulls that either capsized or were dismasted. In the Open 50 class Bob Escoffier on Adecco-Etoile Horizon reported suffering structural damage to their boat and have also officially retired. "The Bay of Biscay in November is a brutal place to race," Joe commented. "We saw some fairly horrendous seas and I can only imagine how it must have been on a trimaran." Luckily the boats that were wrecked were within a helicopter flight from the coast and all the crews have been rescued and are safe. Some of the boats have been abandoned and will be salvaged at a later date.
With Artforms now at the back of the Open 50 class Joe and Josh can concentrate on their own strategy without having to second guess Kip Stone, but they are not unchallenged. Servane Escoffier on Vedettes de Br閔a is only 50 miles astern in a sistership to Gryphon Solo and could easily pose a threat. The boat won the last Transat Jacques Vabre and was also the winner of the 1998/99 Around Alone. Instead of a swing keel like Gryphon Solo, Vedettes de Br閔a has a fixed keel and water ballast but for straight downwind conditions they will not be at any disadvantage. Between where they are now and the big parking lot known as the doldrums there are many places where Servane and her co-skipper Bertrand de Broc could catch up and slip by, so the crew on Gryphon Solo remain vigilant. "We know how quickly things can change," Joe said. "Servane is a very real threat as is Kip and Merf Owen on Artforms. There will be some slow spots ahead and both boats could quickly close the gap if they keep moving while we are stopped." The finish in Brazil is more than 3,500 miles away and a lot can happen. For the short term Joe and Josh will concentrate on getting the boat back in tip top condition and planning strategy. The weather forecast shows no problem areas which is welcome news for a battle weary team. Instead of hanging on and taking a soaking they will be able to enjoy the ride and a warm drink as they watch the water rushing by the hull.
Via Satellite: New Audio Posted Today
There are two new audio recordings at gryphonsolo.com. [ CLICK HERE TO LISTEN ] Joe discusses the damage to other boats and gale force conditions they experienced on Monday night. The next update will be on Friday morning unless there is breaking news.