I’ve had a few different relationships with Brian Harris over the years. The first time I encountered him, back in the 1990s, he was running Rumery’s Boat Yard in Biddeford, Maine. A mutual friend had refit an engineless Vineyard Vixen 29 there, and Brian towed us out the Saco River and launched us on a delivery down to Newport. Since then I’ve crewed for Brian on his boat, and he’s crewed for me on mine, but mostly I’ve been his customer. Since he took over as general manager of Maine Yacht Center in Portland in 2005, I’ve kept two boats there, and Brian and his team have been my go-to guys for maintenance and upgrade projects.
I’ve also written a bit about Brian, as in between his two seemingly ho-hum boatyard jobs, he distinguished himself prepping boats and managing shore teams for top IMOCA 60 sailors Josh Hall, Emma Richards, and Alex Thompson in premiere events like the Vendée Globe, Around Alone, the Route du Rhum, and the Transat Jacques Vabre. With this kind of mojo behind him, Brian had no trouble making MYC the go-to yard for North American long-distance solo sailors. Rich Wilson had MYC prep both his IMOCA 60s for the Vendée Globe, and various Class 40 campaigns have long been based there.
Brian finally saw he might have a chance to race around the world himself when in 2019 he learned of a new event, the Globe 40, being organized in France. I well remember the gleam in his eye when he told me about it: a strictly Class 40 event, run in eight stages, with interchangeable doublehanded crews. Brian and his good friend and boat partner, Micah Davis, had raced their Class 40, Amhas, in the western North Atlantic when their schedules allowed. Now here—maybe—they could hit the big time.
The problem was the Globe 40, to be sailed in 2021-22, required some crew continuity. One co-skipper on each leg had to have also sailed the previous leg, and Brian and Micah weren’t sure their work schedules would permit that. What saved them was the pandemic. The start was pushed back a year, and more than half of the 15 boats entered dropped out. To keep Amhas in the race, the organizers allowed her to race with two entirely separate crews, and Craig Horsfield and Oliver Bond, two competitive Mini sailors, signed up to sail her on alternate legs opposite Brian and Micah.
“They were definitely the A team,” joked Brian when we sat down to talk about his experience this past spring. “Micah and I were consistently average. We got third place in all four of our legs, but Craig and Ollie got a couple of first places and a couple of seconds.”
In the end, only four boats reached the last finish line in Lorient, France, and Amhas finished second overall, after a Dutch boat, Sec Hayai. All of the boats that went the distance and completed the race, except for Sec Hayai, were prepped at MYC.
Brian is proud of that, of course, but mostly he is grateful to have had the chance to participate himself. “It was an incredible adventure,” he said. “It really was. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be able to do this.”
The hardest part was the long leg he sailed across the southern Indian Ocean, from Mauritius to Auckland. Steep 6-meter seas with short wave periods made it very hard to control the boat running downwind.
“The wipeouts put the spreader tips in the water, with the boat over 90 degrees. It was spooky! Given my druthers, I would much rather have done this when I was 30, not when I was nearly 60. It was physically pretty challenging.”
When Brian mentioned he and Micah were selling Amhas in Lorient, I asked if they now planned to find another boat to race in.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” he laughed. “Not unless we’re racing our bicycles against each other. Or our wheelchairs!”