Vendee Globe-Solo record still possible

The foiling IMOCA 60’s are giving a good impression of multihull speed over the course of the first 19 days of this edition of the Vendee Globe, solo circumnavigation. As of 1700 EST, Brit Alex Thompson aboard Hugo Boss has had the pedal down despite breaking a foil on something in the water a few days ago. (It is worth noting that at the moment four boats have hit something and broken the boat obliging three of them to abandon the race).

The VG tracker has a number indicating the percentage of the race the leader has completed. After 16 days Hugo Boss had completed 25% of the calculated great circle length of the race. Extrapolating on this data brings one of course gets to a 64 day circumnavigation. Will this be the end result? Too soon to say fo course. BUT I just did it again for 19 days at 30% which is 62 and some days, so they are not backing off at all.

Thompson has been able to get back up to full foiling speed having gybed to starboard for a while today allowing him to deploy the ‘good’ foil for a while. But sail boat racing regardless of what the boat or the course is needs wind and they appear to be light on for such at the momenet, light being the operative word.

The biggest hurdle the two front runners, now 25 miles apart (at 1700 Race time) is the wind petering out and becoming confused and light. Thompson reports basically sailing into the back of the front.

Oops- pays to pay attention. The 2200 race time position updates places The Boss stretching again over Armel LeCleac’h, (aka The Jackal in French solo terms) at 31 miles over his earlier 25 miles. AND the Boss has the juice again at 22 knots versus 18 of The Jackal.

British Bull Dog lives to fight another day.

The following link/news update courtsy of the VG press office.


Vendee Globe: Hugo Boss inches away.

So far so good for the tenacious Brit on his fourth attempt to get his Knighthood, I mean, win the Vendee Globe. Personally I reckon the big job now is to be steady and cool and not get too psyched by being in front. I am sure he’d rather be there than in some of the other positions he has been in during his three previous races. Right about now 4 years ago I think he was fixing one of the rudder connecting rods after the Watt and Sea came adrift and busted said rod. Ever the Sponsors Man, he recorded it on board the boat with Hugo Boss logos everywhere. And of course this time, he is posting positions on the Alex Thompson website, so more eyeballs again. THIS is great sailing as marketing tool thinking

The other two leaders are putting the yards (meters?) on the top of the next group. Currently in second is Seb Josse on his third Vendee Globe. Just the short version of his CV includes a fourth in the first leg of the 1999 Mini-Transat, a second in the 2001 Solitaire du Figaro-A four or five leg stage race soloin 33 foot one design boats, around the Bay of Biscay and the western approaches to the English Channel. ‘The Figaro’ is THE training ground for the serious French solo sailor, and lately Brits too. Josse was a part of the crew and so, co-holder, of the Trophy Jules Verne aboard the Maxi Cat Orange, nee PlayStation. Third in the TJV with Isabelle Autissier in ‘03, fifth in the Vendee globe in ‘05, fourth in the ’06 VOR on ABN Amro 11 including a 24-hour speed record. You get the picture. He is sailing for the financial house of Edmund de Rothschild, long a prominent name in sailing with a collection of Gitana’s.

In third lies Armel Le Cleac’h, presently 92 miles astern of The Boss. Le Cleac’h is another professional sailor with a long history of big time racing. Figaro, World Champion in IMOCA (these Open 60’s) fourth in the Route du Rhumb, France’s answer to the OSTAR. A second place, twice, in the 2009 and 2013 Vendee Globe gave him the scent no doubt.

Interestingly when researching the basic stats of the boats, the beam of Hugo boss is not given. But Thompson has the most upwind sail of the three leaders at 340 sqm. Compared to Le Cleac’h at 300 and Josse at 290. He is also a tenth of a metric tonne lighter, 7.5 vs. 7.6. And, in what must be an enormous mental boost for Thompson and a bit of a ‘WTF’ moment for the rest, is the fact Hugo Boss was abandoned in the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre, in November after being launched 01 September. After being recovered, a nice bit of work in itself I reckon, Thompson’s team spent six months rebuilding her again. And a slight bit of sailing trivia for you Thompson’s co-skipper in the abandoned TJV was the same Spaniard, Guillermo Altadill, (the most successful sailor no one has ever heard of) who was aboard High Noon, the youth boat that blitzed the 2016 Newport to Bermuda race.

Second and third are 89 and 92 miles astern of the Boss, and after that the distances really exercise the bungy cord. From fourth through tenth, they are respectively: 123, 195, 207, 285, 442, 575 and 619. And we are not talking about the rookies here either. Just in this group are a total of 17 (including this one) Vendee Globe races from a total of 43 previous races within the fleet.

From todays interviews with the sailors, Sébastien Josse remarks on the increasing discomfort aboard the boats in this race. ‘With each Vendée Globe it’s worse and worse. In my first one, I had a comfortable bed, but now it’s really uncomfortable and it’s hard to sleep’. Having boat speed is a great way to win a sail boat race but it does have its down side in a three-month race. Josse again:

When the boat is above 18-19 knots, it’s hard to move around. It’s noisy and it’s impossible to sleep with all the banging. It’s less comfortable than a multihull.

Then there are the forces these boats are subjecting themselves to. The following remark was made while the boats are sailing in 15 knots of true wind. We’re at the maximum loads for the boat. In the Southern Ocean we won’t be able to do that.”

If you did not know Thompson, (is British) it might be easy to infer it from his remarks from the same body of ocean. “It’s a bit bumpy. He goes on: (In this cut and paste from the VG news section whose work is duly recognized)

It is pretty amazing to be on a boat which in 16-17kts of breeze I can average 22kts. The breeze has finally come left a bit to allow Hugo Boss to lift up her skirts a little bit and go a bit faster. I have a bit more breeze for a few hours and then it will lighten up and drop a little bit before tomorrow when we will start a real fast, fast dash for three or four days towards the Cape of Good Hope. I could not have asked for it to be positioned more perfectly. It is a very normal scenario this. It is developing just to the south of us and will move down, and I will be able to stay ahead of it. I think just this lead pack will be able to stay with it. We will be with this low pressure for quite a while. I think Seb is right. This is going to be the first big test for the boats. I am imagining a wind angle of about 120 to 125 degrees true, sailing in 23-26kts of wind. Depending on the wave conditions is what will decide how fast the boats go. To be honest if it was flat water in those wind conditions my boat could average over 30kts. With waves I don’t expect to be going much faster than I am now, to be honest 22-24kts maybe. Today I will prepare the boat a little, re-tidy up, re-stack, and I will try and get as much sleep as I can in the next 24 hours. I have a little composite job to do, just to make sure everything really is ready, make sure my sail plan is correct for when it comes, make sure my contingencies are ready, make sure I am fresh to be able to hit the turbo button when it arrives. I guess we are going to find out how strong these boats are now. Who will be ready to lift the foot first? Show the French you have learned? I think these boats…well the limit is quite obvious. You know when you have to slow down. Last night I had to slow down. 24 hours before the Cape Verdes you get slowed down. You get told by the boat. The boat tells you when to slow. It is as demanding now as in more wind. We do not need a lot of wind. The more wind, the more waves, the slower you go.”

We’re not in Kansas any more Toto.

Solo with two boats

Joe Harris and Henrik Masekowitz are closing in on each other.

Joe Harris has been sailing for 10 days, Henrik for 12. They are both in the warmer climes now. Henrik has some fresh trades behind hm, while Joe is trying to get to the east against light headwinds.

It occured to me that they are both aiming for roughly the same crossing spot on the equator. Far enough east to give them some sea room too leeward vis a vie Brazil, yet not so far east as to be in the crummy wind area. For the purposes of this post I have put the crossing point as 30 degrees west, at the equator. The two screen shots below show Henrik has about 1350 miles to go and Joe has 1790. Hummmm

 Track and distance to go, roughly, for Henrik.

Track and distance to go, roughly, for Henrikto the Equator at 30 degrees west.

And for Joe, the angle is tighter and he has to be sailing upwind to get east at the moment. But we still have say 16 weelks to go….

Joe's track and distance to the Equator at 35 degrees West.

Joe’s track and distance to the Equator at 30 degrees west.

This is Joe’s update from 22nd


Status updated: 22 hrs and 52 mins ago (Mon, November 23 @ 20:43:12)

Hi-Not such a great 24 hours for Team Joey and GS2. Last night was a shit show of one major squall after the next, bringing major thunder, lightning, wind gusting up to 30kn and heavy downpours of rain upon your faithful captain. I was OK with the first couple of these, but then I became really wet and cold and the fun kinda went out of it. It was also a bit scary to be perfectly honest, although the lightning was up higher in the sky and not actually landing in the water. I remember once doing a solo delivery back from Bermuda and I got caught in a huge thunder and lightning storm (in the Gulf Stream of course- my nemesis), where I was pretty damn sure my mast was going to get hit by lightning and blow a hole in the bottom of the boat. With no other boats around, if you were a lightning bolt, why wouldn’t you hit the tall shiny metal object all by itself in the middle of the ocean?? Anyway, it missed me then and it missed me last night, thank God.So the rest of the day has been spent sailing in light air, upwind- something that GS2 does not really like to do. This causes me a lot of stress because I think I should be able to solve the problem- except I can’t- because it kinda “is what it is” as they say. The boat will go upwind properly in 12 knots of wind or more, but in 12 knots or less, we get sticky, because the boat is so wide and flat. And tonight we have 7 knots. Awesome.

I hear that fella Henrik the German is coming down the pike past the Canary and Cape Verde Islands and is enjoying fast trade wind sailing- the bastard. He has a much better downwind sailing angle as he approaches the Doldrums and Equator from Europe vs. the US. Just a fact. I should have a more favorable angle on the return leg from the doldrums to Newport in the Spring.

Break- break- more wind now, although still right on the nose, causing me to aim closer to the “bulge of Brazil” than I would like. Hopefully the wind will come astern more and strengthen tomorrow, so I can aim a little further East. For now, GS2 has undergone a warm weather transformation- with all the cold weather gear stowed away and the food and gear better organized for upwind sailing and life at a 20-degree heel and warmer temps.

Reading “The Martian” and loving it- the perfect book for me right now.

Have a good night-



Gryphon Solo 2: sailing solo, with two

Apparently Joe  Harris was not fully briefed on the presence on the North Atlantic of, would you believe another sailor in a Class 40 making an attempt on the 137 day record Gryphon Solo 2 is working on.

This report and challenge arrived from Gryphon Solo 2 earlier today. This is a cut and paste in italics


Joe aboard GS2- 28’21 N X 56′ 14 W on 11/20/15
Hello folks-

Today I became aware of a new competitor out here on the great Atlantic race course and that is a gentleman named Henrik Masekowitz. Henrik is from Germany and is attempting to break the same record as I am- 137 days around the world, solo, non-stop, unassisted for a monohull boat 40′ or less. Henrik started from France two days before I did and is sailing a Class 40 Akilaria RC 1 named “Croix du Sud”, whereas as I am sailing an Akilaria RC2. Both boats were designed by naval architect Marc Lombard in France and built in Tunisia by MC-Tech- Henrik’s in 2007 and GS2 in 2011. Pretty darn similar boats. I believe Henrik’s web site is: and he is also on YB tracker at

(Cooper inserts YB tracker for HM-my comments at end)

Yellow Brick tracking position for Henrik Masekowitz, Croix du Sud, at 0500z Sat 21-11-15

Yellow Brick tracking position for Henrik Masekowitz, Croix du Sud, at 0500z Sat 21-11-15

So it is “Game On” sports fans… we have a race on our hands, which is I think is what both Henrik and I were hoping for in both originally trying to do the Global Ocean Race, which is no longer happening.

So here we are- completely unexpectedly- joined on the race course around the world- but he coming from France and me coming from Newport. I think the mileages are pretty similar and we will meet up at the equator and then sail the same course around the bottom of the globe- leaving the five great capes to port and Antarctica to starboard- and ultimately around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America and then back up to the equator and then splitting paths, with Henrik back to France and me to Newport.

Henrik's weather for 0900z on Sat.

Henrik’s weather for 0900z on Sat.

Wx chart from Passage Weather for Henrik’s area for 0900z Sat. 221-11-15. Henrik is at 33 degrees 46 mins north and 16 degrees 21 minutes west.

Henrik’s record attempt is also being reviewed by the World Speed Sailing Records Council in England as my attempt is. It’s quite ironic, isn’t it?

Upon reflection, I do think it’s pretty cool… as long as I win smile emoticon However, if I break the old record but lose to Henrik, that could potentially suck… but let’s not go there girlfriend.


Henrik 1200z Sat

The Wx chart from Passage Weather for Henrik’s area for 1200z Sat. 221-11-15

I know for a fact that this will sharpen my competitive instincts and cause me to push even harder, while remembering that you can’t win unless you finish safely.

So, Henrik- I wish you safe and fast passage… just not too fast pal… and for the first leg… I’ll wager you a bottle of fine French champagne I get to the Equator first- even with your two-day head start!

Best to all-


Henrik is, as of 0400 Saturday, 21-11-15 about 60 miles north of Maderia in modest trades making 7 knots. In 2 hours he will have been going for 8 days . His DMG from last Friday at 0600z to present is on the order of 1100 miles. Based on eight days, his average speed has been around 5.7 Kts.

Next up, the two maxi tris on standby for a shot at the Jules Vern Trophy. That is apart from the boats returning from the TYJV and the Mini Transat…(well those not going by ship anyway). Sheesh going to need a traffic cop out there pretty soon.






Solo sailing, with two

Solo circumnavigations in a crowded Atlantic

The are perhaps a couple of hundred people following Joe Harris aboard Gryphon Solo 2 after his departure from Newport last week outbound on his circumnavigation. For those of us watching Joe sail off towards the sparking blue, distant S.E. horizon on Sunday it is unlikely anyone was thinking that the North Atlantic could, in late November, be a somewhat crowded place. Relatively speaking.

Joe Harris "started" and underway, next stop, Newport RI.

I discovered a few days later via a comment on Scuttlebutt (small world eh?) that there is in fact a German fellow outbound, presently off Portugal attempting precisely the same voyage. What do you think would be the odds of two guys taking off within 27 hours of each other in the same (class of) boats on a solo, non-stop circumnavigation via The Great Capes? Slim would be an understatement I reckon.

A Yellow Brick Tracker screen  shot of Gryphon Solo 2's position taken at 1915 EST Wednesday Nov 15.

A Yellow Brick Tracker screen shot of Gryphon Solo 2’s position taken at 1915 EST Wednesday Nov 18.

Based on my very rough interpretation of a piece on a Yacht magazine, in Germany, one Henrik Masekowitz, a 49 year old German, departed at 0600 GMT on Friday 13 (yup) November, crossing a “starting line” between The Lizard and le d’Ouessant, at the SW corner of Brittany. This historic transit is the favored start/finish line for all manner of circumnavigations, in particular those of the French maxi multihulls engaging on the same voyage, commonly the Trophy Jules Verne. Henrik’s avowed plan is, like Joe Harris’s an attempt on the present 137 day’s and change record for 40 footers..

Masekowitz seems to be lacking his own web site although he has a face book page that connects back to Yacht magazine. His Linkedin page shows him as having since 2000 moved on from being a freelance IT computer guy to professional sailor . This might be the mid-life crisis more of us wished we had acted on…… In the intervening years he sailed in two Mini Transats-2007 and 2013 and the British based Azores and back, aka, AZAB.

Screen shot taken at 1930 EST of Henrik Masekowitz's position. The date on the tracker indicates that it is about 25 minutes old, now.

Screen shot taken at 1930 EST of Henrik Masekowitz’s position. The date on the tracker indicates that it is about 25 minutes old at 1930 EST

The boat of choice for HIS circumnavigation is a first generation Akilaria. Henrik’s Akilaria is of the same class & make of boat that the Chinese sailor Guo Chuan used to establish the present record (137 days and change) in 2013. Akilaria is also the builder of the boat under Joe Harris although Gryphon Solo 2 is the Mk.2 version. Masekowitz’s boat “Croix du Sud” is number 64 (Vs. #106 for Joe) built in 2008.

A third Akilaria has made this voyage albeit double handed with stops. Italian Marco Nannini circumnavigated in the Global Ocean Race in 2011/12

The North Atlantic has indeed been an even more crowded place in the past month or so. Excluding the “run of the mill” vessels making the voyage from Europe to the Caribbean and beyond, there have been two major short-handed races, both of which are just wrapping up. (And just think, a Trans-Atlantic passage used to be such an achievement too…Think Sopranino….)

Screen shot of the Class 40 tracking as they close in on the finish of the Transat Jacque Vabre

Screen shot of the Class 40 fleet tracking as they close in on the finish of the Transat Jacque Vabre.

The Transat Jacque Vabre, a double-handed race from Le Harve, France to Itajai in Brazil, over a course of some 5500 miles is close to being complete. FOURTY boats were entered including: 20 IMOCA 60’s and in what must be a record rate of attrition, 11 abandoned the race, 4 fifty foot multihulls plus two of the Maxi tris., and 14 Class 40’s. The tail-enders of whom are still 1800 miles out.

Metaphorically speaking there has been a crossing the “T” of the TJV (a north-south race) by the Mini Transat, sailing east to west. The Mini Class chose to stay in the Northern Hemisphere for this year’s event and so the Mini 650’s are flooding into Guadeloupe having sailed across the mid-latitudes from the Canaries starting 18 days ago.

The remains of the Mini Transat fleet heading for the finish at Guadeloupe, ideally in time for the party….

The remains of the Mini Transat fleet, largely the production “series” boats heading for the finish at Guadeloupe, ideally in time for the party….

Not to be left out of a nice mid-fall lap of the planet are two Maxi Trimarians, Spindrift 2 and IDEC Sport.

Maxi Trimarian Spindrift 2 in Newport preparing for an attempt on the West to East Trans-Atlantic record in 2014

Maxi Trimarian Spindrift 2 in Newport preparing for an attempt on the West to East Trans-Atlantic record in 2014. They were very gracious in hosting members of the Prout School Sailing Team

These two behemoths are in the starting blocks in Brest warming up for a departure, possibly this weekend, for the latest crack at winning the Trophy Jules Verne. The current record is 45 days, 13 hours, 42 minutes and 53 seconds established in fact by Spindrift 2 sailing as Groupama under the command of French sailing legend, Loick Peyron. This pace indicates then that one or the other or perhaps even both monster tri’s are going to have to sail around the world averaging over 20 knots. It is rather intimidating to consider that if these guys and one woman depart in the next day or so they may well be back for New Years Eve celebrations. Think about THAT for a minute.

This is a tad more then the 8.0 kts. Joe and Henrik need to average for them to claim the new record for the 40 foot class.

Spindrift traking page showing her in Brest with the engine ticking over waiing for othe green light….

Spindrift tracking page showing her in Brest with the engine ticking over waiting for the green light….

Screen shot of the tracking page for IDEC and Francis Joyon

And a screen shot of the tracking page for IDEC and Francis Joyon, showing them also on stand by in Brest. The blue boat is Loic Peyrons boat, as a reference I think. This traking seervicec can show the tracks of both boats so you can easily tell who is ahead.

Lastly, one hope’s that the tri’s, and probably the 40’s too, do not simply run over Bristol RI sailor Donna Lange as she, comparatively speaking, crawls along in her Southern Cross 28.  And while not exacly in the North Atlantic rignt now, she was  a bit earlier on in the season. Her position, on Tuesday 17 November in the middle of the Indian Ocean at 41 30’s x 68.00e.

For those of us who grew up watching long distance offshore solo sailing, all this is somewhat mind boggling. Reading about the exploits of the pioneers of the genre  is a more accurate statement. At very long intervals their reports wafted in from static laden short wave conversations and were molded into newspaper stories devoured by the lilkes of the 12,13,14 year old me. Those stories of especially of Sir Robin Knox Johnson, Sir Francis Chichester and the rest of the pioneering solo circumnavigators were the stories of my youth and have shaped my own seamanship. These men might well be impressed: Ms. Lange is on her second lap in a “small boat”.

One last thought: Ms. Lange is one of ony 4 sailors from the US in this entire squadron of solo or otherewise remakable sailors and boats out sailing on the waters of the world.

She is joined by: Joe Harris, Andy Able, sailing a mini and Ryan Breyaimer who had to abandon the TJV.

Regardless, Bon Courage all.