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