Record world sailing attempt falls short, but 76-year-old won't stop trying

Author: Hailey Winslow, General assignment reporter, hwinslow@wjxt.com
Published On: Jan 31 2014 12:18:20 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 31 2014 06:10:00 PM EST
Sailor back in Jacksonville
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -

Two cracked ribs is not what Stanley Paris wanted to point to after more than 50 days of sailing solo on the high seas.

But he's home safe and has quite the story to tell.

On New Year's Eve, his boat, the 63-foot Kiwi Spirit, did what's called an accidental jibe.

"I was downstairs, a long way from the helm, when a strong gust of wind came by, a squall, and totally turned the boat around," Paris said. "And the boom, which carries the main sail, swept from one side of the boat to the other with such a force that the end of it, the block that holds it to the boat, tore out and broke it and cracked it."

While trying to rig a temporary fix, the 76-year-old University of St. Augustine founder fell flat on his back on the deck in excruciating pain.

He had experts look at uploaded pictures of his damaged vessel and all decided it was much too dangerous to continue his global quest.

Up until that point, Paris had gone the entire voyage on the grace of the wind. Now it was time to raise the white flag.

"The moment I cut that seal and then moments later turned the engine on, game over, because you're not allowed to use an engine, and to that point I had done everything entirely green," Paris said.

He began the eight-day trek into Cape Town, South Africa, which was no easy feat. For 36 hours straight, he didn't sleep because there was so much boat traffic and he couldn't risk a collision or waking up on the rocks.

When he got close, customs, a rescue boat and his wife, Catherine, greeted him with lines and fenders to tie up with at the dock.

When it was all over, what was it like stepping on land for the first time after spending a couple months at sea?

"The land wouldn't stand still for a moment," Paris said. "Actually, it took three days -- my wobbling on my feet for some three days. If I put my foot on carpet, I felt, it's certainly moving. But when I was on the roadway and it was moving, I knew it was still in my head."

It was lonely at sea. For 50 days, Paris hadn't seen another soul.

"If you give that some thought, that's something -- not to see another face for 50 days," he said.

But he did spend a lot of time with dolphins and whales.

"Whales can be scary to boats. They can flip them over," Paris said.

Paris has completed an Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, swam the English Channel twice, and even sailed the world once before with friends.

This time he was hoping to set the record, with himself as captain and crew.

"It was disappointing, but if I think about life as a whole, I've had more failures than I have successes," Paris said. "But overall, my life's a success, I think."

Paris was hoping to beat the current solo sailing record set by the late Dodge Morgan in 1986.

What does he think Morgan would say?

"He'd be laughing. He's a competitive individual," Paris said. "He would be encouraging me to have another crack at it though."

The question now is, will he give it another shot?

"I'm proceeding right now as though I am, because there's no time to waste if I'm to start again this November," Paris said.

He said he's never let the fear of failure keep him from chasing his dreams, and he encourages others to follow suit.

"Don't be afraid of failure," he said. "Take that test, sit that exam, go to college, and when you do fail -- because you will -- just brush it off, think about it, go back again better prepared than last time. You will succeed."