Continuation Sail - The Spinnaker Rears Its Head

Cambridge, 30th November 2001
A mere seven o'clock start on Saturday saw us plan to go out late morning, after a spinnaker briefing, and hopefully make it to a pub for 3pm to watch England v. South Africa rugby... First though was more yo-gurt shaking at breakfast, and Richard Two's chance to impress us with his knowledge of safety terms and everyone to impress once more with tying bowlines. Once Cal had introduced a whole new terminology for spinnaker lines (the kind that you wouldn't want to tell your granny) we prepped the boat for sailing and had a little practice at heaving lines into the dock. We finally set off late morning, and had a bit more tacking and gybing practice in the morning. It was a little more windy, although still quite calm.

After lunch we did a few reefs, and then Cal announced that we'd get the spinnaker up. At this point he became a little more tense, and even more annoyed at my frequent and mistimed questions! I was on the working guy (holds the end of the spinnaker pole back), and had a hard time of the winching until someone managed to engage brain and start to let out the downhaul that was holding it forwards. Still, it went pretty smoothly and low and behold, the kite was up in front. A first time for me under spinnaker, and a first for some of the crew on a Challenge yacht. Quite a bit of the theory becomes so much easier when you're actually there and can see what's going on, but there's other stuff that you have to pick up - end of the pole under the lazy gib sheet and all that kind of thing. Really spectacular - partly since you know how impressive it looks from outside the boat.

We put in a few gybes; not an easy job really. It means putting the other pole up, gybing, and then taking the old one down. Simple really... still, wouldn't like to have to do it in a hurry. At this point Cal mentioned that someone would have to go to the end of the pole to release the kite when we brought it down; it didn't really come as much of a surprise when he said that I would do that - I'd have volunteered if given half a chance! Still, a little bit daunting, being suspended outside the boat and having to hold on to a few ropes to stop yourself from swinging around. Still, I took the camera with me (and the spike) and just about managed to get a few shots in whilst I was up there.

Now you would have thought that with someone hanging on for their life at the end of the pole, you would get a move on to get them back pretty sharpish. However, they also had to raise the genoa, sheet that in and prepare the spinnaker for dropping - passing the lazy guy between the mainsail and the boom before they were ready for me to spike. However, my moment of fame came, and spike away I did. From that angle you are looking side on at the spinnaker, and to see it just curve away from you after you release it is quite a sight. Still, I then had to hang on there and wait for the crew to pull the whole thing inboard before I could be let down. Even then the ordeal wasn't quite over - for a reason which I'm sure will be explained one day, I had to stay in the boson's chair (basically a huge oversized nappy attached to a spare halyard) and do stuff on the foredeck. One hand holding up the chair, halyard and spike, the other trying to rescue the end of the spinnaker pole as it was dropped, and not being able to walk properly as the chair was around my knees. Nice.

During the day we had Radio 5 on at the chart table, and as the rugby progressed with England whipping South Africa Cal got more and more defensive - apparently all the ref's fault. Anyway... The rest of the day was taken up with learning how to pack up the spinnaker; essential to do it right for a clean hoist, then finding a spot to anchor for the night. Most of the sail locker had to be moved to get the anchor up, and it was a right pain. Still, won't be doing that too often during the race we hope.

Dinner as usual, then the crew settled down for anchor watches through the night; an hour to keep an eye on the radar, take the odd look up on deck, and watch the wind slowly building overnight. I had 5am-6am, which wasn't too bad, although with the usual suspects snoring away when I got back to bed, I spent most of the hour until the generator was started at 7am just lightly dosing.