My desire to build one of the world’s fastest ever cruising yachts came from a number of sources. First, I have cruised some 60,000 miles, including three North Atlantic crossings, three from Alaska to New Zealand and one circumnavigation. At all times, once I left the dock and set out for the next destination I wanted to go fast. Fast meant that I would have more time in port. Yes, it's great being "out there" but being at a fascinating port or anchorage in Alaska, the Pacific or in a Norwegian fiord - well that's better. Additionally, a fast boat can often out-sail the weather systems. So fast is important to me. Next came my interest in solo sailing, which began when I followed my son’s sailing in the Around Alone Race in 2002-3. His race had five compulsory stops for service and for the sponsors to showcase their businesses. The experience made me start to think of a fast yacht that I could handle solo, and that such a yacht would no doubt find a market if I could possibly break certain solo circumnavigation records. YES, I had my next challenge.
It was not too many years ago that while working in your own backyard a decent yacht could be built in a few short years. It could even be somewhat competent. But not today! Kiwi Spirit has taken more than 44,000 man hours to build. That's twenty two years of one person laboring, yet no one person today has all the talents necessary to build a modern yacht and taking twenty years — well it would be out of date before being launched.
So, I put together an owner’s brief of some thirty pages that defined what I wanted in a fast and safe yacht that could be singled handed. I elected an architectural firm namely Farr Yacht Design in Annapolis, Maryland an then together we selected Lyman-Morse in Thomaston, Maine to build the yacht. The build started in the fall of 2011 and was due to be launched in September, 2012.
However, there have been inexcusable delays in the delivery of the keel. A well-known keel maker has flubbed the job. It should have been here three months ago. A sailing yacht cannot be launched without a keel, as it would simply fall over given the weight of the mast and sails. Thankfully my prayers were answered yesterday, when the keel finally arrived and it looks as though it will fit.
Although these are happy and busy days, the keel delay poses a serious problem. I had scheduled to sail to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands for the start of the ARC Rally on November 25 and race to St. Lucia in the Caribbean. In 1998 I won line honors (first place) in Class A out of 212 boats. This time around there are 300 boats for this 3,000 mile race and I want to be there. The keel delay means we will not have enough time to fully test the yacht with sea trials before I need to leave Maine for Las Palmas. I would need to leave Maine no later than the 9th of November to hopefully arrive two days before the start of the ARC. The builder nor the sail maker think that it is wise to rush this process. They need more time. We shall see. Kiwi Spirit will be launched in a mere 2 days on Thursday, November 1st. Stay tuned!
Photo by Billy Black