One ring to bind them

Phil May and Andrea Twigg
Mon 21 Nov 2011 11:56
25:59.8N 016:14.8W
So there we were, four hours out from Gran Canaria and screaming along.  We managed to recover from our initial embarrassment of unfurling a twisted spinnaker and we crossed the start line, waving to ARC people on the committee boat/warship, with our asymmetric flying proudly.  And so it continued, with the wind increasing strength to about 25 knots, at which point we were averaging about 11 knots and surfing up to 14 knots.  We were actually within 2 miles of Phaedo, one of the fastest boats in the ARC this year, which had taken a strange course at the start.
Then, with a loud snapping sound our spinnaker halyard came loose and the sail fluttered down ahead of the boat, at which point it caught the water and stopped us dead.  The next hour was spent with the crew trying to haul in the sodden sail, which had big pockets of water trapped inside, and me frustratedly shouting encouragement because I am forbidden to pull on anything right now. 
Remarkably, after recovering the spinnaker we found the culprit loose in thge sock.  The sail had held, the halyard had held, it was the stainless steel ring attached to the sock that had broken at the weld, releasing the halyard. 
That meant the halyard knot was still in place and in fact we could see it poking out of the mast.  However, everyone was too exhausted for anyone to volunteer to go up and retrieve it, so we spent the night sailing on just our big genoa, which does a reasonable job as a downwind sail.
This morning Andrea volunteered to go up the mast, which was very brave of her because she does not like heights and she also had to do it without the comfort of the spinnaker halyard to use as a safety line.  We did it quite early, at 8am, because the sea was relatively calm so the mast rocking was not too severe.  She still had to grip quite tightly to spreader and shrouds to avoid being bashed against the mast, or spun around a shroud and tangled up.  It all went without hitch, but Andrea was understandably a bit wobbly on returning to the deck.  Afterwards she said she was now ready for a bit of the boredom she had been anticipating on this trip.
Bertie had been on the 2am to 6am watch and wanted a lot more sleep, so we decided to put up the Parasailor straight away while everyone was awake.  We took a lot of care over it and it went up flawlessly.  Now we just need some more wind, because it is only 12 knots right now.