THOMASTON – Stanley Paris has his work cut out for him. The countdown has begun for his solo nonstop unassisted circumnavigation world-record attempt.
But at 76, Paris will tell you, “this is within character.”
“I’ve done other things. I rode across the country on a motorcycle. I recently ran a half marathon in Delaware,” Paris said. “But I’ve Googled my life expectancy, it’s 10.8 years. So I don’t have much time.”
The founding president of the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences launched his newest sailboat, “Kiwi Spirit” at Lyman-Morse in Thomaston a week ago.
And as finishing touches — including a man-overboard beacon — got worked out, Paris was bouncing around the boat with zest and humor.
The last sailor to break the world record for a solo nonstop unassisted circumnavigation was the late Mainer, Dodge Morgan, in 1986.
Paris sees several similarities between the two quests, but he has his share of disadvantages.
Paris will depart from St. Augustine, Fla., to celebrate the 450th birthday of his home state, and cross the chosen starting line in Bermuda as Morgan did. He’ll aim to be back in 120 days, breaking Morgan’s record of 150 days.
In both campaigns, each man paid for the cost of the boat built for the trip.
And Paris also named his boat for the world-record attempt, just as Morgan did with his boat “American Promise.” Paris even put a fighting Kiwi bird with a spear at the bow of “Kiwi Spirit,” making the boat’s mission unmistakable.
But Paris’ boat is lighter, faster, and with the benefits of modern technology. It is made throughout of carbon fiber with more advanced satellite communication systems, including a beacon locater he’ll wear if he goes overboard.
Yet despite the advantages of modern technology, Paris is imposing several handicaps on his trip.
Paris built a boat that is entirely green and uses solar power, rather than relying on a diesel engine or generator as Morgan did. He will use only his physical ability to handle her sails.
Then there is Paris’ age. Morgan was 53 when he broke the world record; Paris will set sail at age 77.
But in the eyes of an adventurer, everything is relative.
Paris says his health, even now at age 76, is an asset because of years of physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle. He completed an Ironman triathlon in 1985 and swam the English Channel twice.
“While medicine and surgery may save lives, no profession speaks to the quality of those lives better than does physical therapy. As a result I find this challenge most appropriate,” Paris has said.
But the time alone will be new to him, and it’s in this hardship that Paris will come to know Morgan perhaps better than most.
Few have attempted the world record that was first set in 1969 by Sir Robin Knox, who completed the journey in 313 days. It was broken only two more times since, with Morgan’s being the last record.
Paris believes if he can slash it to 120 days, it will last a while.
“I think a solo nonstop sail is quite a challenge. It’s not for everybody. It’s obviously a physical challenge, and a mental challenge, and emotional. Pretty much everyone has trouble with the emotional, if only at the end,” Paris said.
“I’ve sailed all my life. I was in the Royal Navy. I have 60,000 miles of sailing experience.”
But whether Paris has the fortitude and desire to break the record as Morgan did is a question he can only answer when his journey is complete, a year from now.
“I very much regret not having met him before he died. I wasn’t aware of his health,” Paris said. “Certainly I knew what kind of person he was. I’ll understand him a little better when I’m done.
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: