First Wipeout

19 10 2011

The front that we have been lining up for the last week or so finally made its way to us last night. We have been reaching on port for the last god knows how long (one leg is now shorter than the other and I have a permanent crick in my neck).

We steadily got lifted and lifted and finally peeled from the zero to a masthead spinnaker and we were off. Champagne yachting, clear blue skies and sparkling seas. However as the front approached it started to cloud over and by sun down we had spits of rain and building breeze. We knew to expect potentially into the 30’s and had a plan to peel to the fractional spinnaker at 25, and beyond 30 to the jib. The moon we have been enjoying has been getting weaker and weaker over the last week, and with the cloud cover as the sun set it took all light with it. We tried a few combinations of lights to see what was going on, and to reduce the too bright instruments, and settled on the steaming light, which seemed like a high-powered spotlight rather than the measly little bayonet bulb that it is. Ross had been driving as we were going through all this and needed a rest so I took over, and we were going to run 1.5 hour stints hoping to be a good balance between concentration and resting.

Luckily for me we continued to get a building breeze but never saw over 25. To make things really fun the steaming light was occasionally flicking off, plunging me into a darkness as black as the inside of a cow, and having to rely purely on feel and instruments while charging along on a 40 footer at 15 knots+. Just as I would get dialled in the bloody thing would switch on again like the sun had come out. Note that these off episodes only happen with a series of big waves of a gust…so I got Ross to switch it off and had a very weak LED headlamp that gave enough light to see what was going on.

So imagine driving up a country lane at 60 in the depth of the night, and someone is randomly switching headlights off. I might as well have had a blindfold on. The only sense is feel from there on in with the wind on your cheek and the feedback through the tiller and heel.

It was Ross’ turn to come on deck but I gave the call that I was fine, as I was dialled into the waves and puffs etc, that I’ll call him if I start losing concentration or am getting tired. Half an hour later was still all good but Ross decided to get up anyway, and the puffs were getting more intense, with gusts to 27 or so…getting a bit of a handful…then BANG we hit that country lane wall and over we went. Flat on our side everything banging and crashing and flapping, my first wipeout on this boat. Not a bad effort and we recovered pretty quickly and got her back on her feet. Had a bit of an issue trying to get the sail down but we managed it and hoisted the solent and trundled off into the dark dark night with no damage….spent the rest of last night in “nana mode” with the solent up as the front really puffed in, pilot (Baldrick) on and resting.

But it’s all good fun, we’ve ticked off a lot of miles and as soon as the sun was up we were into the spinnaker again. We are starting to see the effects of the front passing over, grey, drizzly, just hanging, waiting for the shift that will drop us into the cold southerlies that will propel us to Cape Town on a starboard reach for approx 8 days – just long enough for my legs to even up so I am not walking around cape town in circles…