Charting solo round world

After several delays and more than 44,000 hours of labour over the past year, Stanley Paris' bid to become the oldest and fastest man to circumnavigate the globe solo is about to begin.

The 76-year-old former University of Otago physiotherapist has launched his custom-built 19.2m yacht Kiwi Spirit, and plans to circumnavigate the planet from Bermuda to Bermuda in less than 150 days.

Dr Paris said Kiwi Spirit was specially designed by New Zealander Bruce Farr, because he believed it would otherwise be impossible for a man in his 70s to mount a successful challenge.

Using his experience in physical therapy and issues related to safety and ergonomics, Dr Paris developed an owner's brief that defined comfort, safety and ease of handling.

Kiwi Spirit was built at Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding in Maine, in the United States, out of epoxy-infused carbon, E-glass and Kevlar with a thermo-core that is both stiff and lightweight.

It has a hydraulic lifting keel which draws 4.5m (down) for excellent upwind performance and 2.7m when the keel is up.

There are four water ballast compartments to help counter the powerful rig and make the boat more comfortable in heavy air.

An easy-to-manage sail plan has been incorporated, with all lines leading aft to the cockpit.

Dr Paris intends his voyage to be entirely green. That means no hydrocarbons - there will be no gas, diesel, propane or butane aboard during the circumnavigation.

Solar panels will line the deck and small hydro generators will be mounted under the vessel to provide power.

If he succeeds, he will become the first person to circumnavigate the globe non-stop using no hydrocarbons.

The journey is dangerous, but Dr Paris is no stranger to endurance adventures. He has completed the world championship ironman triathlon in Hawaii, and he has twice swum the English Channel.

This year alone, his adventurous spirit sent him racing across the United States on a motorbike in less than 50 hours, coast to coast, and completing a half-marathon.

"I have always sought physical challenges of the endurance type, and it has become a healthy habit," he said.

"I see them as challenges and I don't mind failure. I swam the English Channel twice but I have also failed on three other occasions.

"People are often so afraid of failure in business, sports and other aspects of life, that they take the middle road in life - boring."

Dr Paris said he would now begin sea trials and training on-board, before beginning his attempt in November next year, to beat the record set in 1986 by the late Dodge Morgan, at age 54, on his cruise yacht American Promise.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz