on 5 December
We forecast nothing dramatic would happen on the sailing front for the next few days. Well, how about this.
Last night we settled down for the nights watchkeeping at 20.00 GMT with a freshening easterly wind. 25 knots gusting 30. We work with 2 men in the cockpit, 2 off duty and 1 standby. Usually at night all 3 down below are sleeping. The seas have been horrendous almost every day since the start. Life aboard is very difficult, akin to riding a bucking bronco 24/7. The smallest task is difficult to complete without some chaos ensuing.
At 07.30 GMT, an hour before dawn, with the wind blowing a steady 30 knots, the boat entered an involuntary gybe. It may have been the distraction of the helmsman being hit by a flying fish smack on the temple, but he denies this, and will divulge the real reason when we are safely tied up in St Lucia. Anyway, both sails backed, but the genoa sheets and the main gybe preventer stopped the boat going completely around. The boom ended up amidships, and the end had risen 10ft with the force of the wind on the back of the sails. The boat was still ploughing along in the general direction of Brasil at 6 knots.
The three below tumbled out of their bunks, life jackets on (and nothing else), and the crew started to recover the boat. The gybe preventer had done a fantastic job, and we were all amazed that it had not parted under such loads. So first things first; we released the genoa sheet in order to allow it to fly on the other side of the boat. Then very carefully took tension off the gybe preventer, since we had the foresight to ensure it could be controlled from the cockpit, and allowed the main to join its jib flying out on the port side of the boat. After a quick check with our flashlights that all appeared in order, we continued to slowly round up through 270 degrees and tacked back onto our original port tack. Gybe preventer back on, thorough check of sails and rigging, and power up to our original speed of 10 knots. All over in 20 minutes, but the adrenalin levels will take a tad longer to subside.
Nobody injured, except for a set of oilskins that received such a rope burn that the outer layers were burnt through. We judged that the crew had behaved admirably in such a situation, and awarded ourselves an extra can of beer for dinner time.
As a regular feature (that is for the next week) our bosun, Mik Underdown, will be penning a few technical words for those of you out there who are interested in the rig and sails.
A few random thoughts and details from your friendly bosun will enhance blog entries over the next few days. Please excuse the jargon, and non-sailors may wish to stop reading from this point.
Top batten problems now sorted out by the Bainbridge 3500 car. UK Sails think it’s overkill but we are not just tootling around the Russel now. We have to watch that the main isn’t eased too far or the batten forms a frightening S-curve off the cap-shroud, which is what was punching it out of the original fitting. Ron put Kevlar chafing patches on the pocket at the obvious wear-points while we were fitting the new batten pocket thingy in the Canaries – seem to be doing their job well.
WERFDC kindly fitted chafing patches for the spreaders but they are unfortunately not in quite the right places – much better than nothing though. We are watching the pressure points at the spreader ends carefully. Patches are ready to fit - we have said we will drop the main briefly to do this if we get a calm patch (which now seems unlikely). I wish we had padded the spreader ends in port before we left. The main (like all our fore and aft sails) is UK Halsey Sailmakers Millennium Carbon – stress mapped carbon strands on a Mylar scrim base. We also had Dacron (“taffeta”) laminated to both sides for wear resistance. Seems a good choice, though stiff and unwieldy to fold or reef.
For normal racing we left the second reef knotted at the boom end with the tail in a bag at the mast. The deck organiser and clutch were then used by the main Cunningham. If needed they could be swapped back, the Cunningham not being needed once the first reef was in. The ARC crew decided it would be more comfortable with both reefs fully rove, so we have used some old kicker fittings to rig a Cunningham. It is operated from the side deck, but no problem on a long race offwind – we haven’t used it at all yet!
We usually employ a handy-billy (three part purchase rove to advantage) with a jammer, as a gybe preventer. Sort of like a spare mainsheet rig. It is sized to live along the main boom when not in use – we just unclip the forward end, tack it to a strongpoint on the side deck and tension it. This is OK for short racing, but we have decided to rig it to the foredeck for strength for this race. We have used a redundant halliard, led from the weather primary winch to the foredeck, through one of our general purpose spare snatch-blocks, and back to the handy billy. This means we can disconnect before a gybe without needing to get to the boom end, and the preventer doesn’t sweep the cockpit in the gybe. Works well.
The handy-billy also forms part of our man-overboard recovery system, as a crane of the boom end to lift the MOB in through one of the gates in the guardrails. We have practiced and it works, but we all hope never to see the system used in anger.
We haven’t used the check-stays at all. They only seem to be to stop the mast panting on a beat in heavy seas – not conditions we have encountered.
Remarkably, we have encountered no halliard or
sheet chafe at all. Pete bought a
whole 200m reel of 12mm Liros multibraid in
We have simple 2-part lazyjacks, which came with the boat. We have left them rigged, and they cause no wear or noise.
All for now – please wait with bated breath for part two – Spinnaker rig.