Update day 7: sails misadventures!
A week already?! At least that's the number on my fod bag so I guess it must be. I have been so busy down here I haven't seen the time fly. Week one has included moments of sheer joy when I surf down a wave at 20 knots, satisfaction with a clean start, exasperation when an autopilot fault led me to believe the boat had a mind of its own and as you will read below, fear.
After full day of running under sunny skies in 22-25 knots of wind (I hope you like the video), with exciting speeds and great surfing sensations when the boat comes alive beneath my feet, I could have been forgiven for thinking I had it all figured out. Yes sir, I was the ring leader of this crazy nautical circus but it only took one small oversight to remind me that next to the power of the boat, I am just a monkey on a clown bike.
During the night the wind had increased to the point that it was unsafe to continue with the big spinnaker and so pulled down the sock over the sail (which allows me to drop it by myself) and managed to get it safely below. I then hoisted my heavy weather furling spinnaker (which means its rolled up around a flexible cable). Just before I finished hoisting, the sail started to unfurl. Because these boats hae a locking system for the sails the halyard (rope to lift the sails) is not rated to carry the force of the sail when its set, I had to continue hoisting quickly otherwise I risked breaking the rope and losing the sail into the water.
The time that it took to top of the sail however, all hell had broken lose at the bottom. Because the sail had unrolled prematurely, the furling unit blocked and wrapped itself up in a collection of tack line (the rope that tensions the sail downwards) furling lines and sheets to create a thick bar tight multistrand cable with an angry sail on the end of it. To be confronted with such a highly loaded mess is a good reminder of the enormity of the challenge that is the Vendee Globe.
To cut a stressful and dangerous story short, it took me over four hours of non-stop work to rig another line to secure the sail while I untangled the loaded, tightly wound ropes at the front of the boat, in the dark, by head light, while being doused with rushing spray. When I was finished and the sail was finally flying correctly I collapsed on my back in the cockpit, wet to the skin with perspiration, sea water and waves of stress. This race is a marathon with bumps like these on the road and the sweet moments taste as good as they do because they're earned, not given. PS. Yes, Mum, I had my safety harness on and was clipped on.