Shredding sail


From the French AC base in Lorient Sebastien Destremau describes a nerve racking incident during training
Friday, we took FRA46 out for a practice session in heavy weather. The training program was manoeuvring in 23 to 28 knots of wind...and it proved tough, real tough! After going upwind for ten minutes, we turned around the top mark to hoist the spinnaker as usual. In this sort of wind, the spinnaker hoist is never easy but we've managed to do it properly. Then arrived the time to throw the first gybe in. Ouch! That was not going to be easy... At first, we started to pull the mainsail in using six people on the winches ... and it didn't move at all ... the second go was better timed (after we gave the 'dark look' to the guy who's winch was not connecting properly) ... inch by inch the mainsail started to come in slowly (the power is incredible) and then faster and faster ... the runners man was pulling the rope as quick as he possibly could and, on the other side I was awaiting for his 'all clear' shout before releasing mine. So, when I heard the 'all clear', I quickly released the runner on my side. And I heard a big bang above my head. Ooops, did I do anything wrong? The whole team feared for the worse and looked up to see if the mast was broken. Thankfully it was not but the 220sqm Kevlar/carbon fibre mainsail was in two pieces, shredded like a simple sheet of paper. But this was just the beginning. The procedure was to complete the gybe before trying to do anything else, but without the mainsail's power the America's Cup yacht's was losing her balance and started to roll from one side to the other. just thinking about it and shivers are going down my spine.

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