Joe Harris' new Class 40 enters Normandy Channel Race
Over the weekend, American solo sailor, Joe Harris, announced that he will test GryphonSolo2, his new Akilaria RC2 Class40, in the double-handed Normandy Channel Race in May. Harris will be joined on the maiden ocean race by Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) Race Director, Josh Hall, for the 1,000 mile event. Harris had intended to race in the inaugural Atlantic Cup, a new Class40 race in the US. However, unavoidable production delays at the Akilaria MC-TEC yard in Tunisia during the country’s government struggles in January pushed back delivery and commissioning making it impossible to fulfil the yacht’s original programme.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back into ocean racing in my new Class40,” says Harris. “We had wanted to make our racing debut in GryphonSolo2 in New York City for the Atlantic Cup race to Newport, Rhode Island,” he continues. “But delays in construction and moving the boat’s commissioning to France made that impossible. The Normandy Channel Race will be an even greater challenge for us.”
Harris and Hall will join the 16 boats currently entered in the Normandy Channel Race; an impressive fleet that includes four entries in Hall’s GOR race: the French duo of Jacques Fournier and Jean-Edouard Criquioche with their Finot-Conq Design Pogo 40S² Groupe Picoty; the Franco-English duo of Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron with their new Pogo 40S², Team Mabire-Merron, subject to funding; the Italian duo of Francesco Piva and Luca Zoccoli on their Farr Yacht Design – Cookson Boats-built Kiwi 40FC, Peráspera, and the Dutch GOR entry, Nico Budel and co-skipper, on Budel’s 2007 Akilaria Sec Hayai (ex-Beluga Racer, winner of the 2008-09 GOR).
Starting on Sunday 22 May off the port of Ouistreham on the Normandy coast, the fleet will race across the Channel to the Isle of Wight and east-west through The Solent, along England’s South Coast to Land’s End before heading north-west across the Celtic Sea to Tuskar Rock, eight miles off the south-east coast of Ireland. Leaving the rock’s lighthouse to port, the fleet then head south-west along the Irish coast to Fastnet Rock before a 370 mile return leg across the Celtic Sea and the Channel to Guernsey, before bending around the Cherbourg Peninsular and on to the finish line off Ouistreham.
“The 1,000 mile course has the potential to be stormy and very challenging,” admits Harris. “Josh and I have double-handed together before and we are ready for the challenges of this great race. We’ll be sailing against the best Class40 boats and teams in the world, so this will be a test of both the new boat and our sailing skill,” Harris concludes.
Josh Hall has been overseeing the build of GryphonSolo2 in Tunisia and the boat’s commissioning since the Class40's shipment from MC-TEC to La Trinité-sur-Mer, Brittany, in early March. “Joe has bought a fabulous new Akilaria RC2 Category 0 Class40 to continue his offshore racing exploits,” says Hall. “We have already logged many thousands of racing miles together and, in fact, the whole idea of the GOR was conceived between us at sea as we raced together in the Transat Jacques Vabre.”
Harris and Hall raced double-handed in the 2005 Transat Jacques Vabre on the American skipper’s Finot Design Open 50 Gryphon Solo, winning the 50ft monohull division. “I am absolutely delighted that we are teaming up again for the Normandy Channel Race,” adds the GOR Race Director. “It will be an excellent opportunity to work up the new boat against some high-level competition. I had better chase the spiders out of my seaboots!”
Manfred Ramspacher, head of Sirius Evenements, organisers of the event, is watching the entry list grow from the ten Class40s entered last year. “We are very pleased to welcome Josh Hall and Joe Harris to the Normandy Channel Race as they are guaranteed to be a very competitive team,” he predicts. “With the American yachtsman, Joe Harris, entering the race, we now have one more country represented, bringing the total to ten nationalities racing in this truly international event,” Ramspacher continues. “The fight out at sea between the skippers will be at a very high level,” he adds. In the 2010 edition of the Normandy Channel Race, Thomas Ruyant - Class40 winner, six months later, of the single-handed Route du Rhum – and his co-skipper, Tanguy Leglatin, won the race with Destination Dunkerque, completing the course in six days and 18 hours: just 20 minutes ahead of Peter Harding and Halvard Mabire on 40 Degrees in second place, delivering the close racing for which Class40 has become synonymous.
GryphonSolo2 departed from La Trinité during the weekend and will head around the Cherbourg Peninsular to the V1D2 specialist racing yard in Caen for further sea trials and Normandy Channel Race preparation.