The Kiwi Spirit being painted at Lyman Morse Boatbuilders in Thomastonby L. Jaye Bell
Coastal Journal contributor
THOMASTON — Stanley Paris isn’t your average septuagenarian. In fact, he moves with the grace of a man about half that age. The founder of the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, Paris doesn’t believe in sitting still for long.
“I look for physical challenges,” says Paris. That’s putting it mildly.
Paris has logged over 60,000 sea miles since 1983, including several Pacific and Atlantic crossings, and a previous circumnavigation of the globe. He has experienced the fury of nine gales at sea. A cruiser at heart, he likes to participate in fun events and challenge himself at the same time. It’s not the first time he’s competed against himself. He finished the World Championship Iron Man Triathlon and two successful English Channel crossings. In 2009, at age 70, he made a third crossing attempt to break the record. Unfortunately, after seven hours in the water, leg cramps forced him to abandon the quest. Paris is still the oldest person to make the attempt. Just for fun this year, he also did the “Iron Butt,” a 50-hour cross country motorcycle ride, that leaves the posterior feeling more like jelly than iron.
With a resume like that, his stamina is a testament to the unlimited possibilities one can achieve. That’s a good thing, because in just over a year, Paris will put all his experience, skill and endurance to the test in order to circumnavigate the globe aboard Kiwi Spirit.
Inspired by his son Alan’s solo sail a few years ago, Paris has created the ultimate quest. He will challenge Dodge Morgan’s 1986 solo world sailing record of 150 days. Morgan’s sail aboard American Promise started in Maine, and then restarted in Bermuda, due to autopilot issues. Paris’s quest begins here too.
This isn’t your average project. Paris is a native New Zealander, with dual American citizenship. With residences scattered between New Zealand, St. Augustine, Florida, and South Addison, Maine, he could have easily chosen anywhere to have the right boat built especially for such a monumental undertaking. The long-term sailing experience of Cabot Lyman and the America’s Cup experience of the team members at Lyman Morse Boatbuilders in Thomaston made all the difference for Paris.
Since last summer, the Knox Street boatyard has had crews working long hours to complete the Bruce Farr designed yacht. Built according to Paris’ specs, the 63-foot cruising yacht will spawn an entirely new class of cruisers. Although Kiwi Spirit is the same width as American Promise, and is three feet longer, the biggest difference is the vessel’s weight. Paris will be sailing in a boat that is 27,000 pounds lighter, with a mast 23 feet higher and a seven foot bowsprit. Carrying more sail on a lighter vessel will make the boat fly over the waves with ease.
“The weighted keel will not cut through the waves like Morgan’s vessel did. Because of that, the distance is farther,” jokes Paris.
Many advances in technology have also changed in the 26 years since Morgan’s adventure, including GPS, radar and AIS. Because of these advances, the overall safety risks decrease, as does the time it takes to complete the trip.
Sailing has its share of risks, but sailing alone can be deadly. Paris will be on the water approximately 120 days. Many potential disasters await anyone putting out to sea: Hitting an iceberg or a floating container, capsizing, losing a mast, or falling overboard are all very real dangers. These can happen in any combination, or all at once in the same rotten day. They can also happen more than once. To keep such nightmares from becoming a trip ender, Paris will carry an extra keel and mast. Going stir crazy is also a potential risk, but communications via satellite phones will lessen the loneliness, if not the longing for human contact.
Paris will practice man-overboard drills with a new device that transmits a signal to the autopilot, and tells the boat to head into the wind. In theory, the boat will slow down long enough for him to swim back to it. He’ll also carry a personal emergency locator just in case. That and his English Channel swimming experience should be enough to help him get back to the boat. His physical therapy background will also help him to remember that the body’s center of gravity is in the lower spine. Therefore, when nature calls, he advises kneeling to lessen the chance of being swept overboard.
Other practical considerations must be accounted for. Hour-long naps are the only sleep Paris will allow himself, simply because he does not trust the autopilot for longer than that. A few nights of no sleep is enough to make anyone cranky, but four months of only an hour at a time caught on the fly will test anyone’s endurance and sanity.
Food is also a practical consideration. The boat will go too fast to troll a line behind, so Paris will take dehydrated foods, long life milk and vitamins. When he runs out of that menu, he’ll have a month’s worth of specially prepared sea survival rations, the kind used in life boats. The tasteless bricks of compressed nutrition are easily digestible without water. They will come in handy in case the adventure takes longer than expected.
“Freeze dried wine would also be a great idea,” says Paris. “I just haven’t found anyone who does that yet.”
Food and extra water will be stored in the spaces left when two of the cabins and one of the heads will be stripped of all original luxuries to lighten the vessel. But these modifications won’t happen until the first year of training ends.
Conditioning is most important.
“When we age, the first thing to go is reaction speed, then muscle strength; the last to go is physical endurance,” says Paris. “If I can train well enough the year before, I will be in peak condition for this challenge.”
After Kiwi Spirit is launched, Paris plans to spend the first year training with former circumnavigators and competing in six long distance regattas. One of these experts is Alan Paris, the son who inspired his father’s quest. The younger Paris’ attempt was slowed by an unfortunate collision. He will be coaching his dad through an intense year of Olympic-level conditioning. The goal, of course, is see the senior Paris successfully complete an adventure that 75 percent of people fail.
Perhaps one of the most unique things about this quest is that Paris is completely supporting it himself without corporate sponsors. Instead, he will sell commemorative spots on the side of the boat to raise funds and awareness for the Foundation for Physical Therapy.
“Dr Paris has a long-standing relationship with the Foundation, and has gone above and beyond in helping to support it,” said Board of Trustees President William G. Boissonnault. Paris’s last English Channel attempt raised over $50,000, in spite of the leg cramps.
In addition, the trip will be entirely green; no hydrocarbons will be used whatsoever. No gas, propane or butane will be aboard during the circumnavigation. Solar panels will wick up every ounce of sunshine available, and small hydro regenerators will be mounted under the vessel to bring power back to the boat.
As if he won’t be busy enough sailing on the wind’s razor edge, the retired educator is not content to only to beat Morgan’s record. The real joy will come as he shares the experience. He plans to inspire and educate as he’s sailing, and will share the adventure with St. Augustine school children. Paris will photograph and blog about his progress along the journey. Time permitting; he will interact live with the kids during their school day.
Paris will be 76 when the challenge begins in St. Augustine in November of 2013. Will he be ready? You bet. Will he succeed? Time will tell. But he’s already proven that, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Afterwards, Paris plans to refit Kiwi Spirit back into a comfortable cruising vessel so he can take his family on long, leisurely voyages to anchorages around the globe. But since he doesn’t sit still for very long, we will see just how long it takes him to dream up to an adventure that will top this for his octogenarian years.