Richards rips mainsail
6:19 am Central, 12:19 GMT, 7:19 pm boat time, Friday January 3, 2003
Had one of my best 8 hour runs today, averaging 14.93 knots, covering over 119 miles in those eight hours. That's one-third of the Chicago to Mackinac race in eight hours. I had up the main with one reef and the solent, and we were smokin'! I broke the boat's top speed record, hitting 26.7 knots on the GPS at the height of one booming surf. I finally needed to tuck in another reef when true windspeeds started getting into the mid-to-high thirties and the boat started rounding up periodically. The sound inside the boat when it's hitting these speeds is amazing; the boat is literally tearing across the water.
Going out to grab a reef in winds like this is something. We are running with apparent wind angles of about 120 degrees - this means that the boat feels the wind hitting it just aft of the beam. The main is pinned against the shrouds; nothing is going to make it come down if the halyard is eased to take a reef at this point. So the boat needs to be pointed more into the wind, making things much noisier and much wetter. The wind starts to howl, waves wash over the boat, and as the mainsheet is eased to lessen pressure on the sail, the main starts to flog a little, adding to the overall din. I eased off the halyard and start to pull the main down by grinding on the tack line. Unlike most cruising and racing boats, which have a hook or similar arrangement at the tack of the boom for reefs, all of the Open class boats have a line that runs up through the cringle - or reinforced hole -for the tack of each reef in the main and back down to the deck. The line comes back to the cockpit to a stopper and can be led to a winch so that both the tack - the front end - and the clew - the back end - of the sail can both be pulled tight without leaving the cockpit.
Getting this done on a huge main like this in about 35 knots of wind is noisy and tough, but as soon as everything is ground tight and the boat is back on course, things settle down a bit. In this case, the boat barely slowed. Now, however, some six hours later, the wind is back down to the lower 20s and I am thinking of shaking that reef back out.
We crossed over the "wayline" today and now the next point that we need to round is Tasmania. Bernard Stamm and Theirry Dubois are already there in Class 1. We are about three hundred miles from the next of the Great Capes, Cape Leeuwin on the southwest coast of Australia. It is still amazing to me the countries that I have passed aboard EVEREST HORIZONTAL. Most recently we have passed far to the south of Indonesia, Thailand, India and more.
I still need to pinch myself (or just rub my cold toes) to realise that we have made it this far, that I really am in the Around Alone race about to reach the longitude of Australia! Under 3,300 miles to Tauranga.