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Photo by Troy Gilbert
Photo by Troy Gilbert

Ryan Finn – An American Adventure

Sailors can be a notoriously quirky bunch, and none more so than solo offshore racers willing to take on the elements and sleep deprivation at sea while battling time or other solo sailors for weeks on end. A native of New Orleans, Ryan Finn, age 37, has accrued over 20,000 miles of solo offshore experience. He has competed in three Trans-Atlantic and three Trans-Pacific crossings on boats ranging from Open 60’s to Mini Transat designs. Now Finn is about to embark on his most unusual challenge to date.

Having recently returned from a season on the European circuit and while working with a Portuguese skipper to prep for the Route du Rhum, Finn had been studying up on legendary sailor Tom Follett who raced aboard his Proa, Cheers, from Plymouth, England to Newport, RI in the OSTAR in 1968. Finn explains, “I just loved something so simple and efficient, and I wanted to do something outside of a race committee – something bigger.”

A Proa is an old Polynesian design sailboat having a main hull with only one single outrigger – as such the boat is symmetrical and has no stern. With the outrigger always to windward the boat is capable of incredible speeds.

Finn contacted Paul Bieker, one of the top minds in naval architecture and part of the design team for Team Oracle USA, and Russell Brown who has more miles on a Proa than any western man. Together they have designed and are building a 32-foot plywood and fiberglass Proa sailboat for Finn to solo sail non-stop from New York to San Francisco around Cape Horn on the old 13,000nm Clipper Ship route of the 19th century. If successful, Finn will own the solo sailing record on the Clipper route – as there is none, and achieve a world record.

While raising money via a Kickstarter campaign that starts this month, and rounding up corporate sponsors, Finn has been running daily weather modeling and velocity predictions based on Bieker’s speed estimates. The models are consistently showing a journey of under 50 days. With two equator crossings as well as a transit of the notorious Cape Horn, the effort will pit him against a wide range of weather patterns. Surprisingly the start in the winter from New York will be one of the most dangerous stretches, “The first three days will be cold, rough and unpredictable. Depressions roll through this region of the Atlantic regularly and push right across the Gulf Stream and tend to explode. It will mean battling exhaustion, not pushing the boat too hard and making it to the trade winds as quickly as is safely possible.”

Construction of the boat is expected to be completed by the end of the summer when Finn will immediately begin sea trials. Built of marine grade plywood and the fiberglass, the boat is incredibly inexpensive compared to Open 60 campaigns. The sea first trials will be in the Gulf of Mexico as he starts building up to greater distances. “As I get a better handle on the boat’s actual performance, my team and I will start tweaking the boat and understanding the amount of provisioning I will need onboard. I’m considering safety before speed, but I want it to be a strong record. The cold will be the biggest concern on an uninsulated boat, really approaching hypothermic levels for big stretches of time. And it’s going to be wet of course.”

Finn is sailing under the 2Oceans1Rock.org banner and is enjoying a great deal of support from the Gulf Coast sailing community. If you’d like to assist by making a small donation via his Kickstarter campaign or simply follow his blog and the eventual attempt, he asks that you visit his website 2Oceans1Rock.org or follow the program on Facebook for regular updates.

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