Slow ride to Brixham
Pos: 46 19N, 40 40W, heading 55 Mag at 8-15kts
I don't know whether to blame myself or the sequence of events, but the result is the same: the boom is broken and we face a mountain of work to finish leg one and prepare in time for leg two. It will take more than dolphins to cheer me up now, I'm afraid.
After holding back a bit for most of the race, but still within reach of good placing, the expected big following winds looked like a good time to finally open the throttle and see how Ocean Planet measured up with the top Open 60's. I looked at several different weather sources to assess early on what to expect, it looked like 35kts, tops. So as the wind increased I already had a reef in the main to go with the heavy reacher/runner jib. I had seen close to 35kts with this set up before and it seemed okay with a little to spare.
You saw our little "surfing" movie, at those speeds Ocean Planet is under great control, even if the sound is unreal. But the wind kept picking up. At 35 kts steady the boat was flying at a steady 16 to 20 knots with several bursts to the upper 20's characterized by the unearthly shriek of "speed howl" from the keel. It was too much, too soon and I had to decide whether to put in a second reef or roll up the heavy reacher. I went with the latter, and discovered that the boat
handled beautifully sailed "laser style" with enough water ballast to heel a bit to windward which resulted in a nearly neutral helm even at the still scary speeds. Since our rotating mast has no shrouds, I can let out the sheet as far as I want which makes it possible to use the main alone like this for heavy running.
I was worried about the load on the boom in that much wind the second reef would have been much better, so I let the vang tension out a fair bit to allow the main to twist and reduce the vang load until the wind started to go down.
Except the wind didn't go down, it went up. At just over 40kts, I was below as the boat went on a tear to 28kts with a deafening howl. I was scared and thinking about how I would go about putting in a second reef in those conditions. I guess I waited too long and my hand-wringing was put to an end by a load (and I mean LOUD) explosion that I felt straight in the heart, I knew exactly what it was.
I wish I could say I remember the exact sequences in the next following hours I went through to try to get things under control, but it is a blur to me now. In the process I had to cut away the outer part of the broken boom and let it go to keep it from taking out the lifelines, stanchions, and holing the boat. Part of the process was I had to get the boat sailing again fast enough to reduce the apparent wind so I could work on the flailing parts and mainsail. There were a lot of stressful moments hanging over the side cutting lines and rigging lifting halyards but I was tethered on (nearly) all the time. I am so tired now it is hard to even type or walk around, but at least now things are under control and the (damaged) mainsail is safely on deck, the remaining part of the boom stabilized and we are sailing at a good clip with just the staysail up. It is dark now, so no pics until tomorrow.
Which is when I get on the phone to figure out how to afford a new boom, new (or repaired?) mainsail, etc, etc, and get it all to England and installed on the boat for leg two. Now would be a good time for a sponsor to fall out of the sky.....
Time to sleep for now,
Skipper, OCEAN PLANET