Three days ago American solo sailor Joe Harris was faced with the prospect of chasing leader Kip Stone to the finish line, with a slim chance of passing the brand new, state-of-the-art 50-foot racing machine. The design of Stone’s Artforms is superior to windward, a fact that did not escape Joe Harris in planning his strategy and taking action aboard Wells Fargo-American Pioneer. It was either follow the leader with a growing deficit of mileage, or gamble to the south where weather maps indicated Harris might find a stiff northerly breeze to catapult him into a position between Kip Stone and the Boston finish line. With a glimpse of potential victory in sight, Harris’ choice was clear – gamble for first by heading a different route than the leader.
“The weather models I was analyzing for the southern tip of the Grand Banks showed a chance to capture some nice northerly wind,” said Harris. “I headed south, but when I arrived, the northerlies were nowhere to be seen. I was left wallowing in the mind-numbing stillness of the Atlantic as Artforms and Okami flew towards Boston. I need to keep reminding myself of the simple goal I established as a first-timer to this race – to finish.”
Although in 3rd place for a short spell, Harris has regained 2nd place and has 250 miles to the finish line. He is likely to encounter more fluky weather as he approaches the coast, as a low pressure system is forming directly over the city of Boston. Harris says that his mental state is directly relative to the weather he encounters, a common feeling amongst solo sailors, who are often tortured by the extremes of brutally harsh conditions or the frustration of windless holes in the center of low pressure systems.
Wells Fargo-American Pioneer is a proven boat with two solo circumnavigations to her credit. She is an older boat than the competition Harris faces, built in 1997, while first place racer Artforms was built in 2003 and 3rd place Okami was built in 2000. Okami skipper Jacques Bouchacourt from France and American Joe Harris may hail from different continents, but they share many similarities. Both are father to two young children, active in the real estate business and began sailing as youngsters through the encouragement of their parents. They both have invested in one luxury item for The Transat race, a new set of sails. They are both also in a very similar position, separated by only 27 miles. Harris is expected to finish the race on Thursday, June 17.
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