Another long day and night. In the aftermath of crossing the front between the two high pressure systems, which didn’t have anywhere near as much wind as one might have expected, we then headed off to the east, oddly back toward the front, with the forecast anticipation that the wind would shift, allowing us to tack and head south on a more favorable direction.
About 10 hours before this was predicted, it appeared to be happening. Suddenly we had a big wind shift. I waited about a half hour to see if it would stay or not, and it did. Maybe we should tack now. Let’s try it, So we did.
After Ellen MacArthur finished second in the 2000 Vendee Globe, she wrote a book, and one of the chapters was entitled ‘The 30 Minute Tack’, because that’s about how long it takes to tack an Open 60 when alone.
First you must move the sails that are in the forepeak on the windward side. If you do this before the tack, you can try to roll them (in long sausage like sail bags) from the high side to the low side, because the low side will soon be the new high side. You want this weight where it will help. But you have to be careful up there, because the bow is pounding up and down, and getting knocked sideways by the waves, as the boat continues to sail while you are setting up for the tack. You could easily get thrown across the forepeak if you lost your balance or your grip. Plus, our gennaker weighs 75 kilograms (165 pounds) and if you were to leeward and trying to guide it into its new spot – well let’s just say you don’t want it rolling on top of you as it could break a leg or arm, or pin you up there for who knows how long. Dominique Wavre, who had the boat before us, put 10 small 3:1 block and tackles in the forepeak to help pull and guide these sails. They work perfectly. Anyway, I got the gennaker rolled into position, then rolled the fractional gennaker downhill and on top of the gennaker, and I had positioned a big net that then could be pulled to the roof to capture the sails and keep them in place after the tack.
Meantime, I had started draining the starboard forward tank 1, and amidships starboard tanks 2 and 3, that contained, between them, about two tons of water. There is a pipe, called a scoop, that gets pushed through the bottom of the boat into the water streaming past, and depending on whether it faces forward or aft, it either sucks in water into the tanks, or sucks the water out of the tanks. There are 10 tanks, 5 on each side, all connected to a central plumbing system, and each with Open or Close valves. So while I was wrestling with the sails in the forepeak, we were draining tanks 1, 2, 3.
Once those 2 pieces are set, then you can go and tack the boat. Pull back the leeward running backstay and load it on the winch; ease the new side traveller so that the mainsail won’t push the boat into the wind after the tack before you’ve had a chance to pull the jib in; ease the mainsail sheet some also to help with that same situation; load the new jib sheet on the big winch; make sure the jib sheet is clear forward; put a winch handle in the new running backstay winch; take a turn off the old jib sheet winch so that it will be easier to get that running free; take a good look around – all set?
When you are well and truly ready, because this is all going to happen fast, and if you tack by autopilot, once you push that button, the boat will turn whether you are ready or not, and it will turn fast. Ok we’re ready, now release the canting keel from its 40 degree cant to centerline. This is the final step. The boat now lays way over and it seems chaos is imminent.
Then very carefully push the two one degree buttons on the autopilot for tacking, you have ten seconds to do it, or not, ok, ready, push! Leap to the jib sheet and unwind the 4 turns off the winch as the boat turns and the jib starts flapping madly, next to the new backstay winch and grind that tight to its pre-set mark, then leap across the cockpit to the old backstay winch and let that off so that the mainsail boom can swing out and not push the boat back up into the wind, then grab the new jib sheet and pull like a madman, great huge armloads of sheet, all the time hoping that the jib has actually swung through up forward, and if it has, once you’ve got the excess in, jump on the pedestal winch, which has already preselected high gear for the new jib sheet winch, and grind like your life depended on it. Once you have picked up steering speed again, you can breath a bit of a sigh of relief. If the boat had been pushed back up into the wind, it then stops moving, the autopilot alarms start going off, the boat starts going backwards, threatening the rudders.
We got through the tack, and then it’s ten minutes of grinding to get the jib and mainsail set again, push the button for the canting keel to cant, then go below and start refilling the tanks on the other side.
We ended up doing that 3 times yesterday. Our first tack worked, but then the wind shift did not hold, so we had to go back. Then, late at night, a new weather map and routing suggested we should tack now. So at midnight, we did, with all the lights on, and we got through, and started rolling south.
All of this is why the numbers for the pedestal winch today are high!
25° 07’S x 16° 32’W
True Wind Speed
True Wind Direction
Mainsail with one reef, plus Solent Jib
77° F / 25° C
83° F / 28.3° C
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