Having sailed the Centennial Newport-Bermuda with Joe Harris aboard Gryphon Solo, I am naturally tuned in to the man’s prospects in the Atlantic Cup and a first leg now under way from Charleston to New York. Gryphon Solo was an Open 50, the same that Brad Van Liew sailed to win his first solo race around the world. Gryphon Solo 2 is a Class 40, a manifestation of an attempt to bring more European-style competition to this side of the Atlantic. It also represents, as Joe says, “unfinished business.” He never got the sponsorship for his own race around the world (and the Van Liew story proves all over again how hard these things are in the USA), but Joe is a fine seaman and a true competitor. Here is his account of getting out of Charleston:
The past 12 hours since the start of the 2012 Atlantic Cup have been fast and furious action. Leading up to the start, all the sailors were scrambling with last-minute shopping, fixing and making sure that everything that was needed was onboard and nothing extra that would add weight. The start was postponed a half hour so we started at 6:25 in front of the Maritime Center in Charleston. It was a reaching start on port tack with a fast outgoing tide and we were a little cautious as we did not want to be swept over early, and as a result we were a little late and a little low of a few of the boats, which put us in their bad air for the short first leg to the government turning mark. Icarus got a great start as did Bodacious Dream, and we were glad to see our fellow Americans performing well. Right after the first mark, we heard a loud crack and saw the mast come down on Forty Degrees, a huge bummer for the UK team. Hopefully no one was hurt.
After the first mark, we began to beat out the long entry channel, which involved at least 20 tacks, while dodging incoming and outgoing shipping traffic. I got to drive while Tristan trimmed the sheets and ground the winches, so he gets MVP of the start for a great effort. After clearing the rocky breakwater at the entrance to the channel, we hung a left towards Hatteras and were able to relax a little and munch on some sandwiches we had bought so we wouldn’t have to cook the first night. As darkness fell and the moon rose, we were in the leading back, but back about two miles from the leader Campagne de France, who sailed a flawless first part of the race. We put up our secret weapon Code Zero sail as the wind diminished to 9 knots and alternated hand steering and trimming, while looking furtively at the chart plotter that showed the positions of the other boats and looking for small gains or losses. We seemed to be going pretty well. Tristan crashed for 3 hours from 12 to 3, then I went down from 3 to 6 and we each felt much better after a little sleep. The sunrise was spectacular as the wind came forward out of the northeast, so we tacked on to port and are headed offshore to get into better breeze and get a little sea room before tacking back onto starboard to clear Cape Fear, about 30 miles away. Next up is Cape Lookout about 120 miles away and then Cape Hatteras about 190 miles out, so if the wind holds we are hoping to round Hatteras Sunday morning.
All is good aboard GS2, as we just charged up the batteries and re-stacked our sails and gear to help keep the boat level and going fast. It is very nice to be offshore again and we hope to sail hard and well today to make up some ground on the leading pack—Joe Harris