Stanley Paris Abandons Record Attempt – Ridiculous!

12 Jan

paris kiwi.jpg

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…

This article was syndicated from 59 North, Ltd.


  1. john Bonica

    As an offshore racer and blue water sailor for over 60 years in the South Pacific, I have had the pleasure of personally knowing Stan Paris AND Bruce Farr in New Zealand since the early 70’s. What many people don’t realize is that Stan, among his many accomplishments over the years swam the English channel twice and is amongst the oldest to do so. Quitting is not in Stan’s vocabulary. As one of my mentors in medicine, I have the greatest respect for his pioneering spirit and the ability to get the job done. His injuries on this undertaking were substantial. Being struck by a mainsheet block in the back while trying to get it under control, and a fall on the foredeck possibly fracturing ribs or most likely his scapula,would seriously compromise a much younger man let alone a 78 year old! One might question whether the accidental gybe was the result of lack of, or damage to a boom brake, or the possible failure to reef main or headsail at night may have been a factor. Lack of adequate sleep can lead to decisions which otherwise might not have been made. I cannot accept that the Farr office would under design inadequate chain plate attachments unless their specs were overruled by the guy they built the boat for. Stan is a detail man and no doubt had a say in what he wanted in a light weight design for a boat that needed to not break in the Southern Ocean. Hopefully Stan will write a book about his experiences and answer some of the armchair admirals who prefer the comforts of their fires and armchairs to getting out there and doing it. It took guts and courage. Stan had both. The fact he had to give the dream away should not detract from his remarkable effort to fulfill his dream.

  2. RLW

    Comparing Paris and Rutherford makes all kinds of sense especially since Paris was simply doing something that HAD been done before by Dodge Morgan.

    As far as the carbon footprint claim Rutherford had a much smaller one than Paris even though Paris planned to use no fuel on his voyage the carbon footprint of the construction of his boat and rig was substantial.

  3. Andy Schell

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the comments. Matt’s voyage was remarkable, there are no two ways about it. I met Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in the UK recently (‘winner’ of the Golden Globe), who told me, when I’d mentioned he was a heroes of Matt’s, that ‘well, Matt’s done pretty well for himself!’ Sure, people have done the ‘parts’ of his voyage before, but nobody has ever done it like he did it, and on a shoestring, essentially by himself – and he raised over $100k for CRAB in the process!

    The point I was trying to make in the comparison is to look how different his trip was from Paris’ – Paris had all the resources in the world and a purpose-built boat and didn’t last much longer than a month. And given that he was going for a speed record certainly changes things a bit in regards to pushing the envelope. But it makes Matt’s voyage – which got very little media attention until he was halfway around – seem so much more impressive to me.

  4. Richard

    Please don’t compare with Matt Rutherford, Matt’s voyage was a great success, but many others have achieved comparables with him (and before someone says his was a first – yes sure it was, but all the “parts” had been done before. I know neither of the mentioned people, but when off shore, we have very different thinking patterns – go back to the Golden Globe race and see what failures there were… and I know someone, who years before even then steps out and achieved equally fantastic results but never got on the gravy train… so be mindful of v different intentions.

  5. Andy Schell

    Hi Marion,

    I wasn’t jumping to any conclusions – I simply restated what Paris himself has stated on his own blog. I just posted my gut reaction to the thing, immediately after I read it on Scuttlebutt. There is definitely a balanced article here somewhere, but that wasn’t the point of the blog – it’s my thoughts, that’s all.

    You do make a good point about contacting Farr. But I just wanted to open this up for discussion, which has happened. Thanks for the comments.

  6. Marion McManigal

    I’ve got to say its pretty sad blogging behavior to jump in to grab a sensational headline with only the “hope” that Farr will reach out to you? Shouldn’t you try contacting them to get their side before jumping to a conclusion? Farr have designed countless ocean going yachts and I seriously doubt the chainplates were underspec’d. More likely some pin attachment or retaining pin worked its way out. Clearly they were in contact with Stanley and made a recommendation based on information they had. Paris took the information and made his decision, and I’m sure it wasn’t taken lightly. What would have been the headline if he had dismasted or worse in the Southern Ocean? We should all wish designers of our boats were paying that much attention. MM

  7. Andy Schell

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the comments. Yes, his decision to abandon is fine, and a good one. It’s not worth dying over, and I commend his ability to be strong and accept failure.

    I’d love to hear from the Farr office, as I’m sure they must have some explanation (which is probably forthcoming I’d assume, given what was written on Paris’ website). And it’s a pretty big admission, given the scope of the trip, to say that the rigging attachments essentially aren’t seaworthy. It’ll be very interesting to see what happens.

    Let’s not forget Paris still have 1,500 miles to sail in a broken boat, towards the ‘Cape of Storms’ – he’s not out of the woods yet, so wish him luck and a safe passage.

  8. steve whelan

    Well, it’s kinda backlash. The ultimate Paris decision is correct. It’s a discretion/family thing that receives insufficient credit. Right in the Farr critique but I hope you gave the designer an opportunity to comment. He may have been given restrictive guidelines. SW

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