3. Who is in control?
Tue 21 Jan 2020 02:51
22.20.606N 020:36.618W - total Gybes: 2 - Distance to go: 2169 nm
Today started out nice and calm, we had a little sun, a couple of clouds, 15-20 knots of wind and a slight to moderate sea state. At 1700 we had the perfect conditions to change the J4 jib to the A4 gennaker. Amazing how much a change of headsail helps with helming the boat at a steady course.
Contrary to the predictions, like yesterday, the wind picked up to about 23-25 knots about 1,5 hour after the switch. Right when the darkness started to settle in.
When explaining the boat to new sailors I often compare her with a wild horse. Especially with the gennaker up she is testing and trying the person at the helm constantly. In a gust of wind the boat will literally try to break free from under you and luff up if you do not pay attention. You also have to braze yourself because the speed might just wipe away your feet from underneath you.
Obviously there are chances to correct this, but if your are a 'newby' that is not as easy as it sounds. Especially when you are helming at night with no real stars at the horizon for reference (where are they when you need them??).
Throw in a moderate sea state and all of a sudden an 'easy sail' turns into being full focus at the helm struggling to stay on course.
The worst thing that can happen when we luff up extremely? We could broach and this basically means that she will heal over so much that the deck will hit the water and more importantly, people in their bunks might all of a sudden find themselves in the air before landing (hard) on the floor.
On the other hand, if you correct this the boat will bear away (steer away from the wind). The moment she flattens out is the moment you should correct back, but that is very difficult because also during this maneuver she tends to run away from right underneath you and go extremely to the other side. The danger when this happens? You might end up accidentally gybing (crash gybe) and believe me when I say that this is really really bad for the rig. We will not be the first boat to have ripped their sail or even lost their mast during a crash gybe.
A broach or a crash gybe can happen on any boat. But because of the speed and the way Telefonica Black helms (almost like a dinghy), you have to be extra aware. This is why we call her a racing machine. A wild horse that cannot be given too much freedom. We have to show her who is boss at all times and that is why we switch over the person at the helm every 20-30 minutes. It takes a lot to control the beast.
'But is it fun you might wonder?' Well, ask any person on the boat, the experienced or the novice, sailing Telefonica Black is a privilege, a challenge, a rush and just a great experience! And the crew is just amazing. Helping, coaching and fine tuning with whoever needs or wants it.
I am simply afraid that those who have never sailed before are forever spoiled. If you manage to be in control of this boat, which other boat will challenge you in the future?