on 7 December
Yesterday was all about coming to terms with the fact that a boat not rigged for downwind sailing cannot do well in a race where the wind blows directly from the start line to the finish. For the past few days Majic 2 has been diverging from the rest of the fleet at an angle of 40 degrees, heading for South America. Any further to the right and our speed would have fallen off dramatically. What we needed was a pole to boom out the headsail on the other side of the mainsail, so that we could have sailed with the wind directly behind. The boat's handicap would have had to be reassessed for that configuration, and we only needed it for this one race. So we didn't do it, and the wind did exactly what it's supposed to do, but usually doesn't (not all of the time at least).
Last night, after receiving the daily positions, the crew sat in sombre and reflective mood over their hamburgers, mashed potatoes and beans. Then someone said. ''*od it! the race isn't over till the fat lady sings'. So back to the met forecast, and let's pray for a wind shift. And in the morning we got it. Not a lot; a shift of 15 degrees counterclockwise to the north. But enough for us to gybe the boat at 09.00 GMT onto a north-west heading, making the usual 9 knots. And what lies dead ahead, distant 1100 miles, but the northern tip of St Lucia. Now, if the wind would just stay as it is for the next 7 days we're home and dry.
We're receiving many emails from friends who are concerned about conditions below decks, prompted by yesterdays piece on 'the swamp'. This has spurred us into action, the whole crew scrubbing and tidying as I type. In doing so we have come across a veritable mountain of food left over from the delivery legs, which had been fermenting in the swamp for the past month. We estimate we still have enough food left to do a double circumnavigation, if you don't mind eating curry every other day. We also have enough sweets to keep a primary school happy for a month, and enough cooking oil to open a fish and chip shop.
HERE BEGINNETH THE SECOND LESSON ACCORDING TO BOSUN MIK
Spinnakers. Well, sort of.
Just to be clear, the mainsail is attached along two of its sides, to the mast and to the main boom. Headsails are attached along just one side, to the forestay. Spinnakers are only attached at the corners, and are consequently much less stable.
Majic2 is a J boat, using an extending carbon fibre bowsprit. The spinnaker sets off the end of that, rather than from a separate pole swivelling off the mast as with conventional or “square” spinnakers. In that case the end of the pole can be moved outwards to enable the sail to catch the wind. In our case the end of the pole is fixed, out to the front of the boat on the centreline. This limits the extent to which we can sail downwind – 25 to 30 degrees away from the relative wind (say 35 from true wind) is about all you can hope for. Our A-sail acts more like a big genoa set flying, and in fact they are sometimes referred to as “gennakers”. Horrible word.
In rough or confused seas (as here) the sail flops about and can flog, risking damage, or wrap around the forestay and furled genoa, which is a potential problem. The solution is to keep the sail full by sailing a wider angle – meaning we need to cover a greater distance by zigzagging to the destination.
On shorter offshore races it is rare for the wind to be directly behind you for the whole race, and asymmetrically rigged boats can have an advantage. They are therefore loaded with a higher handicap. Out here, we still carry the handicap but can’t take advantage of the configuration. Ah well.
We carry three spinnakers. The big red floater is cut very full to allow us to sail as deep as possible. It is made of 0.6 oz cloth (weight per square foot, hurrah for imperial measures and b*ll*cks to the EC and political correctness). Over about 18 knots of true wind it is overpowered and difficult to control, as well as being liable to damage.
The AP (all purpose) is cut to be easier to trim, more versatile and more forgiving, although it is effectively the same size as the floater. Our favourite kite. Although made of 0.9 oz cloth, this was the one which split almost in half just after the start, when the sheets came off and it flogged badly whilst being recovered. Shame.
The little reacher is cut flat, with no real shoulders, and is designed for sailing across the wind rather than downwind. It is made of heavy 1.5 oz cloth and is in a disgusting turquoise and fluorescent pink star design, being the only one of Graham Dorey’s (the previous owner) original sails still in use. Good sail, though.
Although spinnakers are usually hoisted straight out of the forehatch on short races, we are launching them out of their bags on deck, to save getting water below. We rig an extra rope to the tack (front bottom corner ……) for recovery, to stop the front of the sail from dropping into the water. We don’t usually bother with this for short races, but it helps out here.
Still remarkably little chafe on the gear, which was a big concern before we left.
I’ll round off next time with the headsails/genoas,jibs – time to log off, as it is the hour of the ceremony of the beer transfer (daily ration from locker to fridge) and Pete Norey is crowing about baking another successful batch of crusty rolls.