Kiwi Spirit in Cape Town

I get the sense some people out there are waiting for me to opine on the fate of Dr. Stanley Paris, who again decided to abandon his attempt at a non-stop circumnavigation and put into Cape Town aboard his custom performance cruiser Kiwi Spirit (see photo up top) a little over a week ago. As discussed previously, the good doctor was never entirely forthcoming about the gear damage he suffered during his last abortive voyage. He has been even less forthcoming this time. All we know is that “the top quarter of [his] mail (sic) sail separated along a seam from the rest of the sail.” There has been no description of any causative weather or event, no indication at all of what might have precipitated this.

So it’s impossible to say anything at all conclusory or in the least bit judgmental without making many assumptions, which I suspect is one reason why Dr. Paris is so reluctant to share facts with us. He wants us reading about him, but he doesn’t want us talking about him. All I can offer is the one fairly obvious question: wasn’t there a spare mainsail aboard? Given that Paris once told Cruising World that he planned to carry an entire spare rig, it seems having a spare main on hand would not be unthinkable.

Kiwi Spirit under sail

Kiwi Spirit under sail, with the offending mainsail at full hoist. Presumably it is a laminated sail, which would explain Paris’s inability to repair it at sea. I believe it was built by North. Such sails are very strong, and it would normally take some severe abuse to cause the damage described. With a Dacron sail, at least, he could have pulled out some needle and thread and had at it

In the end, it would appear that Paris has aborted this second attempt due to less severe, more foreseeable damage than he suffered last time. And we can’t help but note that he’s bailed out at almost exactly the same point as he did last time, not too far from Cape Town, just before getting into the wild and wooly heart of the Southern Ocean.

If I were mean I suppose I could say he didn’t really want to do this, or that the only way he could ever have succeeded was if nothing on his boat ever broke at all. But I don’t really believe either of these things. I don’t know what to believe. The man is a total mystery to me. Non-void. A cipher.

He does still have his most excellent boat (which again is being brought back north by a hired delivery crew), and now that this non-stop circumnavigation nonsense is done with (he has made it clear there won’t be a third attempt), maybe Paris will run Kiwi Spirit as a straight cruiser and just enjoy himself, hopefully without tugging on our shirt sleeves trying to get us to pay attention to him.

UPDATE: Stanley speaks! Dare I believe that it was my whining above about the lack of information he has shared that prompted him just one day later to explain in more detail what happened to his sail? No, I don’t really believe that, but I’m very glad he’s told us more.

Torn mainsail aloft

North 3Di mainsail on Kiwi Spirit immediately after the damage occurred

Torn mainsail on dock

Torn main down on the dock in Cape Town

Apparently the sail blew up in moderate condtions during a controlled jibe. North Sails has taken responsibility for the failure and is repairing the sail free of charge. They are reportedly mystified as to why/how this could have happened. The delivery crew, led by Steve Pettengill, will use the repaired sail to take the boat back to the States and will also carry a spare main. Paris in his new post implies but does not state that this “old” sail was aboard when he lost the number one mainsail, as he states: “With three onboard they can change the sail though it would have been unlikely that I could have done it alone.”

I had wondered about that actually. Could he bend on a new main alone at sea? It certainly wouldn’t be easy, but you’d never know for sure until you tried.

Sometime today allegedly Dr. Paris will provide another post describing a problem with his rudder (never mentioned before) and tomorrow will discuss whether he’ll try again. Which implies he might.

Here’s some advice if he does: expect some major sail damage and be prepared to deal with it at sea.

Whatever you make of all this, I’ve got to hand it to the man. I’d be very daunted handling those huge laminated sails alone. We’ll recall that Dodge Morgan, whose old non-stop RTW record the good doctor is trying to best, sailed his voyage on American Promise with a Dacron roller-furling mainsail, a much easier beast to handle, at least when it’s working properly. Morgan, interestingly, was initially very nervous about the sail and worried over being to repair or replace it at sea. As far as we know, it gave him no trouble and he ultimately concluded that it allowed him to make a faster passage, as his confidence in being to reef quickly and incrementally enabled him to keep maximum sail area flying at all times.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Per those two additional blog posts, Paris has now described how he discovered after reaching Cape Town that one his rudders was slipping in its quadrant and had dropped down a few inches. He also put up a photo:

Kiwi Spirit rudder

Definitely might have become a serious problem!

Plus he’s laid out his schedule for the next few years: 2015, help his wife finish hiking the Appalachian Trail; 2016, ride motorcycles with his son all the way from Alaska to Florida; 2017, bicycle across the country. Obviously, he’s a busy guy! So his next opportunity to try this sailing tip again won’t be until 2018.

If he does do it then (he’ll be 80!) he’s decided he’ll need a smaller boat, say 56-58 feet. So look for Kiwi Spirit to be showing up soon on the brokerage market. If you wait long enough you can probably buy her for a fraction of what it cost to build her!

Here’s some advice to the doctor I would offer: make the boat even smaller, say 50-53 feet, and much simpler! Stop worrying about setting speed records and focus on just finishing the course. Doing a non-stop RTW at this age is a huge accomplishment all on its own. And forget all this hoo-hah about a “green” voyage. Get yourself a windvane and call it even.

Nuff said for now!

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3 Responses
  1. Anonymous

    Went down to the waterfront in Cape Town to have a look at Kiwi Spirit. Absolutely amazed at the state of the boat. Deck and cockpit in a complete state of chaos. Nobody about. Literaly looks abandoned. Very sad to see such an amazing boat in this condition. Sheets, winch handles and running rigging just left lying everywhere.

  2. Dis Gusted

    Anonymous ?, what would you expect, the boat failed him.

    And author, as much as I appreciate that you’ve gotten a word of the day calendar, why would anyone care about your uninformed opinion?

    What have you tried to accomplish? How many ribs have you broken and ignored along the way?

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