Softly softly

After saying 'no more headwinds', this is of course exactly what the wind gods have dealt Bruno Peyron

Thursday April 25th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Nick Moloney reports from on board Orange

I trust everyone understands why we held off information about our mast problem. I think we all needed to deal with the situation onboard before we became overwhelmed with advice.

So the basics are, the mast is stepped on a ball joint very similar to a towball on your car. This allows the wingmast to rotate. The ball, at last inspection appeared to have a crack around 1/2of its perimeter - so quite serious. For several days the mast has been making the most horrendous noise as our bows slap over waves. Yves [le Blevec] has made an effort to retain the ball in the event that it shears off completely by laminating carbon fibre around the base, plate and beam. Whether or not it will be enough is impossible to say.

So things have been a little tense on board for the past few days to say the least. It's a very daunting thought to lose everything right now.

I am sure it's a bit of a surprise to all ashore considering the miles we have been pushing aside since punching into the trade wind belt but it's been safer to keep pressure in the mast and sails to stop pumping. Our immediate concern now is that we expect some head seas north of the Equator. We have options to take a longer route home and try to avoid slamming upwind in the trades, so we are assessing weather heavily.

There's not much we can do now but just keep sailing smart, trying to preserve when we can. The consequences of total failure are daunting but we knew the risk level when we signed on. I believe that we are in no more danger than any other day on board these beasts. I think its the thought of a 1.8 tonne mast 40metres long with over 500square metres of sail tumbling down around you that has put us all on edge. At least we are aware and know where the danger zones are on board.

I have been able to push it out of my mind for long periods. If it happens, it happens. We can no longer monitor the crack as its wrapped in carbon and out of view. Either it stays standing or we have issues, big issues. In this case we are prepared in regards to safety equipment - we shall see.

Those who know me know very well that I don't dwell on what may happen or things that are out of my hands.

Despite all this we had an incredible sunrise this morning. A mixture of black rain squalls, blue skies, white cumulus cloud, orange, red sun rays and even a
rainbow for a period. Looked like an artist has seriously over done it.

Crossing the Equator was the seventh time for me.....I'm getting old.....na!

Progress is slowing this morning but we're still moving in the right direction at around 15knots. It could be worse...a lot worse.

Nick

Report 2 at 0820 GMT today

Nearly 4 degrees north now. So far the Doldrums have been kind in wind strength, but not direction. The wind is currently blowing directly from Brest making progress painfully slow. TWS is about 15kts and we are heading NW at about 12kts, trying not to slam over waves.

Sat with Bruno at the chart table yesterday and ran through plan of attack for the North Atlantic considering our mast predicament. Looks like we will be forced to sail a significantly further distance to the finish than we had hoped in order to avoid rough seas. This is something that we will just have to live with. I said in the madforsailing piece that Bruno doesn't want to smash the record, he will be happy simply to better the record'. We are all of this frame of mind on board...

We are beating upwind and the mast has stopped making strange noises which is a bit spooky.

Spending some time with Bruno yesterday, I began to really get an idea of the stress he is experiencing. The world is aware that we have opted to push forward, to try to finish. Relevent emergency services are aware of our position and situation all the time but whilst we continue, I am sure he will not sleep. I don't think he's buying my 'dont worry mate! She'll be right'

Talking of sleep...there has been a shortage of that stuff due to the heat....(no one's complaining though. It's strange, when we were here a few weeks ago everyone complained about the heat and now after a long stint in the Southern Ocean..everybody's loving it.). Anyway last night was a bit hot and stuffy below deck so Ronan decided to sleep on the tramp under the stars. Problem was the stars disappeared behind a large rain cloud and he got hosed. It all happened so quickly.. he first felt a few drops then the down pour. There was nothing he could do but pull his sleeping bag, which is now soaked, over his head and go back to sleep.

Most of the boys are sporting great sun tans with well defined strap marks from their wet weather pants...new trend? I think not!

Time to eat last night's cold leftovers and get some sleep before it get too hot.

This is it...we're in the Northern Hemisphere..we are really on the home straight. It's all very exciting.

Nick

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