Induction Sail - Day 3

Cambridge, 15th March 2001
After the usual breakfast and clean up operation, we practiced on deck the racing headsail change. Not a simple operation, it was good to go through it whilst the boat was still moored. Just as an illustration, here's the steps involved.

Bring the new sail to the cockpit from the sail locker, identify the tack of the sail (the bottom front corner). Walk it up to the bows on the windward side, attach the tack to the boat. Remove the sail bag, and return it to the cockpit and tie it down. Remove the bottom hank or two from the existing sail - the hanks are the metal clasps that hold the front edge of the sail to the forestay. Then hank on the new sail to the forestay, and move it to lie along the leeward side, and put the halyard strop onto the windward side. Tie a sail tie to the rail and place it on top of the new sail. Flake out the halyard for the current sail so it can run freely, and make sure the winches for the two sheets are manned. That's the preparation stage... Now drop the existing sail, and attach the halyard strop to the halyard. Tie the old sail with the sail tie, and unhank it from the forestay, passing another sail tie through each hank. Move the working sheet onto the new sail, and put the head of the new sail onto the halyard. Move the old sail to the windward side, and tie it to the rail. Move the lazy sheet from the old sail to the new one, remove the halyard strop and raise the new sail. Now flake and bag the old sail, storing it in the sail locker for the next time it's needed. Remember all of that? Now do it with the deck at a 45 degree plus angle, with several tonnes of water frequently breaking over the bows.

After we did this once as a practice, and some lunch, the boat was prepared for a sail and we left early afternoon. I was determined to give it my best shot, even though I was quite apprehensive about what lay in store. I'd been to a supermarket with Cal that morning, to see if they had any stronger sea sickness remedies - it was good to chat about the whole thing, but was very odd to actually be taken back to reality in the middle of an almost total immersion in the boat and crew.

Our watch did the first headsail change; it helped that three of us had done the practice run on the dock that morning. We sat in the cockpit and managed to get all the steps involved in the right order, and some rough idea of who would do what. I was running through everything when Cal (who was helming at the time) said that I'd be calling the shots during the change. All though the week he was quite good about giving people enough responsibility to make mistakes... Anyway, it didn't really go too badly, considering. We were bare headed (no headsail up) for about 16 minutes - their best induction sail time was 4 minutes, with racing crews managing about 2 minutes. At about 40 minutes gone we just had to flake out the old sail, when we started to spanner badly with the sail bag; firstly it was the wrong way around, then upside down: I think we wasted another 20 minutes just packing the sail up. Anyway...

Another of the Challenge Boats was out for a corporate day sail, and we managed to pass them fairly close on our starboard side - it was really good to see what they looked like from outside the boat! We all sat on the rail on the windward side and waved; there were some people taking photos, hopefully we can get our hands on a copy. We noticed that Paul was getting the dan buoy out for another man over board drill, so when the call came we were a little more prompt about the whole thing. It took 5 minutes to get to the buoy and we even managed not to run him over!

The next job was for the other watch to put a reef in the mainsail. The other watch consisted of Roland, Dan, Peter, Dave and Ray. This they did - despite some people's keenness to release the kicker at all stages of the proceedings - and had just packed up, when there was a bang - similar to when tension on a rope is released from a winch. The boom moved a couple of feet out of the boat, so someone was put to wind in on the sheet. A few seconds later however, and we saw that there was a large split in the mainsail - one of the seams nearish the top had gone completely. It was quite clearly a bit of a disaster - probably cause was just age, rather than anything we'd done thankfully. Cal went forward to sort out the dropping of the sail whilst I helmed it back towards Plymouth in the dark and only the two headsails for driving force.

Having abandoned our night sail - gutting for everyone, but for me personally since I'd managed the whole day without being sick (hurrah!) - the plan was to use another boat the next day, to save having to waste time changing the mainsail.