Rig top troubles
"With stronger winds around the corner it's like having your accelerator stuck to the floor with a bend in the road ahead" - rig trouble for Spirit of Hungary, Conrad Colman explains:
Conrad and Nandor's No Good Very Bad Day! There's a children's book with a title about a 'no good very bad day' and it seemed appropriate today.
Following our escape from the light winds we've been salivating over the weather forecast that shows that we will have a solid 20 knots on Tuesday and be able to get to work catching the others. With this in mind we set to work preparing the boat for the stronger conditions that we will have until our return to the Atlantic in several weeks' time. I had noticed a couple of chafing zones on the mainsail so I prepared some patches and the Dr. Sails flexible epoxy glue so we could drop the main quickly, stick the reinforcements in place and be back at full speed in 10 minutes.
It turned out to be more complicated as we found several zones of damage that required more glue and more kevlar patches to make right. Grinding the last part of the heavy mainsail up in the heat took significant effort and as sweat cascaded off us we were pleased when we locked the sail at full height and gybed south for our new course. After the gybe I saw that the main was slack, so we rehoisted it and pulled the lock line to secure it in place. The sail slipped again which stressed us out as we've had problems with this mechanism before. So, out with the binoculars to see what the problem was (yes, the mast really is that high!) and we saw that the halyard was off to the side and had cut into the mast!
Our carbon fibre mast is incredibly strong but our high-tech rope halyard proved tougher. Under tension it jumped off the pulley at the top of the mast and sawed 30 cm down into the mast until it jammed completely. We were as stuck as the halyard was because we could neither raise nor lower the sail and with stronger winds around the corner that's like having your accelerator stuck to the floor with a bend in the road ahead. I hoisted Nandor up the mast and he cut out the halyard after several attempts to dislodge it (I think I learned some new Hungarian words today!) and sent the shredded end down to me to repair. We now have an external main halyard with a pulley lashed in place at the masthead in the place of the damaged original.
The consequence of this repair is that we can't really use the full surface of the mainsail anymore so in lighter winds we will be compromised for the rest of the race. This is incredibly frustrating because we have been getting better and better these past few weeks at sea and were really looking forward to sailing to our full potential from here on out. However, we can be proud of ourselves in that we worked well together to find a rapid fix and there's no need to head to shore for a solution or even consider abandoning the race. However, it's yet another example of how we have been hamstrung by the rushed preparation for this race and is proof that a fast reliable boat takes serious time and experience to put together.
We are still here and fighting... Follow along for the next chapter. I'm looking forward to the good bits. I just hope they come in the next few pages!