Day 3: Purple Mist throws us the biggest challenge ever

Purple Mist
Skipper: Kate Cope
Wed 11 Jan 2023 18:36

Day 3: Purple Mist throws us the biggest challenge ever

First thing to say before you read our update as it’s a bit shocking is we are both fine, a bit bruised and sore but we are really OK both mentally and physically. The boat is now safely underway again at a decent enough speed

All was going so well until it wasn’t last night. We had the S3 flying in 18kts it was happy enough so I left Claire to it and went to bed at 4am. She noticed a squall coming so immediately set to putting a reef in the main. It wasn’t enough and the boat broached which woke me up. I came straight on deck to carnage, the boom was on the deck with Claire thinking the gooseneck had failed. We immediately went to drop the spinnaker but it was too late it was wrapped around the forestay ( front wire that holds the mast up) and the uphaul (rope that holds the spinnaker pole up). It was well and truly stuck and flogging like mad.

I’ve successfully undone wraps by gybing the main so I set to doing that. We sat for about 10 mins on the other side and the spinnaker wasn’t budging. Claire tried to pull it down to unwrap it but with over 25kts of wind the pressure was enormous. Most alarming was the forestay twisting and shaking we just had to do something. All this is the pitch dark and then it started to rain on us as well - a proper squall.

We dropped the main fully and I lashed the boom to the deck quickly concluding the gooseneck was fine it had just lifted out of the rod kicker - the strut that holds it up which is fixable.
We then set to trying to first unwrap the spinnaker. We had I guess an hour of tugging and pulling . I cut down the spinnaker pole and secured that to the deck. At one point passing the sail round the forestay was working - all the time with 25 kts of wind trying to tear it from our hands. We let the spinnaker halyard and uphaul off and it dropped a little but ultimately was too tangled in the uphaul which is too high to reach. We then switched to tying up the spinnaker onto the forestay to stop the alarming shaking which I feared could cause the whole rig to come down. I had already put on plenty of backstay. Tying up the bottom certainly helped though we still had a balloon of sail at the top of the mast swinging about . All the time Claire and I were incredibly focussed and determined to find a solution. Meanwhile the boat is still doing 6 kts in the right direction with no sails save a ballon of tangled spinnaker.

We managed to get some sail ties and Dyneema round the bottom of the sail but the fabric is so slippery it just slides though and comes undone so it really took some time to finally tame the bottom.

By this time we need to recuperate and anyway if the rig was to fail better to be inside . So we retreated for a restorative cup of tea and a good think about the next steps. The only real solution we could think of was was a trip up the rig. Then I remembered my storm jib which is like 2 sails wrapped around the forestay. We hoisted this really high and it immediately captured the middle of the spinnaker and all was a bit more calm. Now the loose balloon was smaller and I don’t think putting any pressure on the forestay.
Time to think about other solutions, something to eat and wait until daylight.

Morning arrived and we both concluded the only solution was a trip up the mast to cut the rope holding up the spinnaker. we very carefully thought this through and prepared claire for the hoist. I haven’t a crash helmet onboard so we made a head protector from 3 knee pads. She dressed in thick clothes and gloves. We made 2 strops so she would always be attached to the mast as there is a huge amount of swinging. We tied the knife with elastic to the bosons chair after agreeing hand signals we started to hoist.

Claire was simply amazing , she had been going to the gym thank goodness so clung to the mast like a monkey. At each set of spreaders she had to retie the strops to get past the obstruction. My heart was in my mouth at the second spreaders when Claire froze , the motion was really violent with 3m waves knocking the mast from side to side . She later told me it was a character defining moment and she really had dig deep. Finally she reached the top and cut the halyard. The spinnaker streamed forward on the wind. We then started the process of descent and I have to say we were both mightily relieved when she was back on deck. She was utterly exhausted so I set about untying her from the lines and the bosons chair but first a group hug.
Whilst Claire was flaked out in the cockpit I went to try and retrieve the last bit of spinnaker. Even that was proving a pain to even catch the pesky thing but finally with help we got it twisted up and lashed to the forestay. Interestingly I don’t think it’s even torn . The last balloon of sail was tamed by hoisting the storm jib over it .

It was now midday and we had been going 6hrs so we decided we better rest. The boom was still on the deck but safe enough and I knew how to fix it. The storm jib was holding us quite nicely and although a bit slow we were still pointing at Grenada.

Claire went for a much needed Kip aland I set about slowly tidying up as it was carnage of ropes , sail ties , wet kit and sail bags .

We’ve now got the boom back together and rehoisted the main sail and doing a very respectable 7kts . We are not going to win the race ….however we said we would get there come what may and that’s what we will do.

Our key take out is just how good we both are in a crisis. We stayed calm and I think had some good ideas. Of course the best idea would have been to use my spinnaker net which stops wraps which we had used yesterday or to have taken it down when I was surfing at 12.5kts.

New configuration at the front of the boat. Under that storm sail and covers is the offending spinnaker

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