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11th Nov07 - genoa falls into sea!! Day6 of passage to S. Africa

Sunday 11th Nov

This has been an active 24 hrs!! Overnight, the wind backed, as expected. First, at around 1 a.m., the sails started flapping madly as it increased to 22knots and went to NW from N, heading us. I hurriedly furled the genoa but happily left the small stays'l up and adjusted our course slightly more to S, off the wind. I'd already taken in the first reef in the mains'l late last night so left that alone. The SE current seemed to have reduced as we actually ended up making the same (roughly SSW) course as during the evening before. Then I had to get up hurriedly into the cockpit again just before sunrise, with the wind having backed now to SW, to change onto port tack and unfurl some genoa, the wind having reduced slightly to under 20 knots, but a big SW swell developing. Stayed up a bit and enjoyed the sunrise and generally calm, sunny day but finally decided to get some more sleep during the morning.

Was just getting ready to make my regular noon log entry and was unfurling the last bit of genoa, having noticed I'd not let it all out, when, in disbelief, I saw genoa going slack and head of sail falling away, taking rest of sail with it into the sea... I hurriedly got to the winch & took in a bit more on the sheet to prevent too much sail going under water (I wondered if it would make us broach!) & slowly, with great difficulty, pulled the sail, bit by bit, over the rail and onto the side deck. The foil was still standing but when I looked at the shackle at the head of the sail, I found two sharp metal edges - the metal had sheared off at the connection between the shackle and the top furler fitting - which I then realized was still sitting up near the mast top, held by the halyard... and seemed determined to stay there when I released the halyard.... what to do??

The swell was big & frequent - I wasn't sure it was a good idea to go up the mast just then, better to think over carefully all my options - after all, I still had the two small hanked-on sails and maybe I should consider moving the inner (moveable) forestay forward to the base of the forestay... On the other hand, light winds were forecast for several days ahead and there was good wind at present, albeit on the nose .... definitely thinking time for coffee and a very late breakfast/lunch!! It seemed to me that a lot depended on whether or not I could fix the broken fitting to make use of the genoa, as I'd prefer to (it being so much larger than the small sails).

Initially, I'd switched on the motor to head gently upwind to help in recovering the sail & then to make way in the right direction, but later turned it off and sailed, but very slowly...1.5kn. I now realized that the swell had died down a lot and the sea was reasonably calm - time to go up the mast & retrieve that fitting - I got all kitted up & found the spool of strong seine twine which would be more than long enough for the purpose & went forward. I was just about to get up onto the first step when I noticed that the top furler fitting had slid of its own accord down to near deck level, with my having left the halyard free... excellent news! On examining the broken part, it seemed that a second shackle was all that was needed to make a temporary repair - I soon found one in my spares that was big enough and attached it, 'mousing' the pin with wire for security. Then came the difficult job of pulling the big, stiff, heavy sail forward, checking it wasn't twisted, and attaching the head to the furler fitting on the halyard. Finally, I made use of the pre-feeder given to me by Mark Butler in San Diego earlier this year. I'd not come across this item before - a very simple device, without which I'd have found it almost impossible to raise the genoa in its groove up the forestay foil by winching the halyard from the mast. Eventually, the sail was up - but wouldn't go high enough to tension the luff properly. Much as I tried to winch more, it didn't seem to want to go any further - I wonder if the luff of the sail has become stretched, or maybe my 'fix' has made it a bit longer than it was, or a bit of both. Either way, I had to pleat the foot of the sail while furling it a few turns, bit by bit, to get anything like a decent shape in the sail with the wind in it under sheet tension - means I cannot make full use of the sail but must keep it slightly furled at all times - small price to pay for having the use of the genoa once again!! By 6 o'clock 'radio net' time, all was finished and we were making good speed on our course ... I felt much happier!! I was very lucky this didn't happen at night &/or in strong winds &/or in really heavy seas!!!

Written by : Mike

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