Yesterday, a small breakage gave a big problem. Today, we have made a repair and are back near 100% on it.
The fractional gennaker, which I have been growing to like with its manageability (compared to the masthead gennaker) and versatility (compared to the narrow wind application of the masthead sail), had its lashing at the bottom of the sail, connecting it to the furling cable, come apart. Fortunately, this must have happened just after most of the sail was furled, otherwise, one can turn the furling cable but it will just spin in the sail until the top of the sail connection would have to take all the torque load to twist the sail and furl it. So we could not use the sail again unless we could re-lash it, but the problem is that the furled sail had then migrated up the cable about 1 meter, and how would we be able to pull that sail down again, close enough to re-lash it to the furling cable? If we were ashore in a sail loft with a big floor, it’s easy. But not out here, and alone.
Over the course of the last 24 hours Joff and I devised a plan. He could calculate that we could hoist the furled sail on a masthead halyard, and the bottom of it would then be about 2-3 meters above deck. But if we put a 1.5 meter strop (soft shackle) at the top, then the bottom would be close enough to the deck to be workable by me.
Next, how to get the cable tight. Joff recalled that the furling drum that we have for the storm jib is the same as for the bowsprit furler. The storm jib tack would provide a rock solid attachment that we could tension against, and it could provide a rock solid attachment point for a block to lead a line to the sail, to then pull it down over the cable, and get it as close to the tack point as possible for a new lashing.
Yesterday, I went through inventory to find what we had to do this contrivance. I assembled it all, and spent hours imagining all the things that could go wrong. But if we could not at least get the sail useable, it would stay in the forepeak for the rest of the race. And, particularly for the south, it filled a special need for manageable downwind sails.
So this morning, 4 hours of straight full on effort, from 0630-1030 and we had the sail down to within 6 inches of where it would be if we did this on a sail loft floor, not perfect, but pretty good.
The silver spectra strops wrapped in tape would go on the halyard to hoist the sail. I taped them all together so that they couldn’t get caught on anything aloft. Then I would have to climb the mast to undo it.
At the bottom, the furling drum of the storm jib is attached to the cable, and pulled tight, and then another block is attached at the bottom to lead the green line, a spare gennaker sheet, back to the cockpit and the big winch.
In the cockpit, I ground on the pedestal winch, hard, until the twanging in the line seemed to indicate that the boat was about to break. Every once in a while you could feel a little release on the rope, as the sail came down the cable maybe an inch. Then I’d grind it back tight as imaginable, and do it all again. Eventually, 6” from its target, it would go no further. Then I made a new monstrous lashing, and taped it.
The sail won’t be quite as aerodynamic, but it will be close. And on we go…
An aspect of the Vendée Globe that is critical is to be able to problem-solve. You won’t have the perfect workplace, you won’t have all the tools, you won’t have extra manpower, you won’t be rested when you need to do it, but still, the sailor at sea must make repairs. And we have.
(Click to see more photos of the repair)
37° 26’S x 10° 44’E
True Wind Speed
True Wind Direction
Main sail plus Fractional Gennaker
70°F / 21.1°C
65°F / 18.3°C
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