I just read news that Stanley Paris, the American sailor trying to take his custom-designed, custom-built Kiwi Spirit around the world alone in record time, has abandoned the adventure only after just getting going. The following is a brief report culled from various internet sites about the reasons behind the abandonment, and then a little bit of opinion on why I think the whole thing was silly in the first place...
Here's what he wrote in his blog:
"And so I have decided to abandon and head for Cape Town, some 1,700 miles away. To continue in the face of the sage advice above would be foolish in the extreme, and cruel to my wife, family and friends. I must now abandon this dream."
Paris squashes the notion of trying again almost immediately, writing, "There will be no second attempt. It will be a full year before I could start again and I have asked enough of my wife and family already. The boat will be shipped from Cape Town to Maine, restored with the lessons learned, and be the fast family cruiser for which she was intended."
He finished the days depressing entry thanking his supporters, and getting back to business on board. "Now, some eight days to Cape Town," he wrote.
That sage advice was regarding some failures that the boat suffered in the past week or so, and was offered by none other than the president of boat design at Farr Yacht Design, who designed the boat, and Cabot Lyman, the owner of the yard Lyman Morse where the boat was built.
Paris opened his blog entry announcing his abandonment by sharing that advice. The guy from Farr goes so far as to say that he recognized that 'the design of the rigging attachments to the boat was not suitable for ocean sailing.' (WTF!?!?!? - that's my comment by the way. More on this in a minute).
Paris is still only in the Atlantic, and hasn't even officially crossed an ocean yet (though he's been at sea for over a month), so I feel for him. It's a bummer.
It's not clear what actually happened to the boat, but apparently the end of the boom failed, resulting in Paris having to jury rig a mainsheet system and reefing system (this after he suffered a pretty serious back injury last week). One of the headsails blew out previously, and the guys at Farr fear the mainsail could be compromised, which in turn could compromise the rig itself (!).
So that's that, and Paris is headed to Cape Town.
Before I get too critical about the whole thing, some points to make to fend off the inevitable backlash:
1. I envy Paris and the fact that he's able to even attempt such a record. He's out there doing it - I'm just sitting here commenting from the couch. I hope I'm still sailing at his age, and on such a cool boat.
2. Anytime you start going after records and doing things nobody has done before, stuff is going to happen that you didn't plan on. It's pushing the envelope for everybody - his lessons in this might trickle down to all of us someday.
3. Paris must have known he'd be giving up some safety and robustness in the boat in order to go for the speed record around alone. Racers balance this risk constantly - where's that knife edge?
Now, that said, the thing that stands out most in all of this is Farr's admission that the chainplate design 'was not adequate for ocean sailing'. As one comment on Paris' blog noted, where the hell was he during the design phase!? And how the hell could such a major priority in the design of an obviously ocean-going boat be overlooked? If I were Paris, I'd be pretty darn pissed off about this. And if it turns out the other failures were design-related, I'd be REALLY pissed off. But then, I'm sure he was involved deeply in the design process (or should have been - to me, that'd be half the fun, getting to design your dream boat!). So maybe he's partially to blame.
But the chainplate thing...what's wrong with some basic stainless or titanium, through-bolted chainplates. They work, they're proven. Why try to reinvent the wheel? Same with the boom-end and reefing system - none of those items are going to make the boat sail faster, so why not spec something bulletproof in the first place?
When I read this I immediately thought of Matt Rutherford and his Around the America's trip. I might be a bit biased in Matt's case, knowing him as a friend and being involved a bit in his projects now, but still - that was damned impressive, and he did the whole thing on his own! He had nobody designing a boat for him, nobody building a boat for him, and no money. He scavenged plywood out of a dumpster to reinforce the deck beam under the mast step on the deck stepped mast. It never failed in 27,000 miles!
Neither did Matt's power system require the constant attention that Paris' needs. Matt used a bit of fossil fuels, but once his engine gave up the ghost int he S. Atlantic, he could't even charged his batteries. But he was never without running lights or the necessities he needed to get home.
Matt, by the way, is quietly preparing to set out on his next big adventure. WD Schock is currently building Matt and Nicole a 29-footer that they'll sail nonstop across the Pacific from California to Japan to study plastics in the Pacific. I have no doubt that he'll succeed, though it will be with much smaller fanfare I'm sure. More on that story later...