I am so glad our mast is still standing and for a good reason, I can’t stop thanking our luck. We started our day late as usual, in a hurry to go to Shorncliffe to watch the start of the Brisbane to Gladstone race, we didn’t leave until 9.30am. There was a nice southerly breeze around 15-20 knts and we started tacking into it. We quickly realized that the start at 11am was for the monohulls and we had plenty of time running along them for a while before coming back to see the multihulls start. Black Jack followed closely by Envy Scooter TP52 is quite a sight to behold even for monomarans, we were comfortably going at 15knts and witnessing the sea of coloured kites not getting any closer. Coming back up to Shorncliffe to see the real race start saw us leaving a little tri which was game to catch up in our trail. Inara does nice angles into the wind.
We met with the fleet as the were heading towards Redcliffe after jibing close to the turning mark and hailing some friends watching the start from their nice little cat named the Imp. The wind had died back to 10 knts then and we saw Beau Geste so conservatively reefed still take the head of the fleet. Morticia on her trail, was absolutely smoking! The guys on there were in for a ride and she looked very mighty for her 30 ft size. Really impressive little tri which might be so much fun to race! Behind were Rushour and Top Gun fighting for the third place. Both probably in their 18-20 knts range already, all huge screechers out. Inara felt so smallish with just her poor state jib and main. Our girl is a Cinderella in taters compared to the racing fleet. We need new sails…
Anyhow, Cosmo was running under kite and might have had some issue with their screecher as they slowed down and went with jib only. We were able to keep pace for a while with them although we had a better angle as we were not following the race course.
Still, beam reach on our shortcut to catch the rest of the fleet ahead, we saw 20 knts boat speed, sat forever on 16-18knts and had a grand time, while the camera boat came looking curiously at us for a few minutes. (By the way, I absolutely need to find this footage…).
Not bad for our little vessel carrying dinghy, MTB, windsurfs and all cruising gear, with quite small old sails! Ben’s modifications to our rudders surely improved performance, average speed and comfort of steering for Inara.
We waived goodbye to the racing fleet as they were heading towards Moreton Island and we started plodding along into the wind to head for the sandhills. Still exhilarated by our ride, we were joking about how we should tag along to Gladstone and enter this race one day. The big question was who we could take aboard as third and fourth crew that we could trust, we liked and that would have good seamanship qualities. Names were thrown about of our various friends when all sudden, out of nowhwere, I heard “tick”. Not a big sound or a scary bang. Just a small “tick” and next 10th of the second, I see our stay just passing 30 cm in front of my eyes. Ben and I both knew. No sound was made. We both looked at the mast instantly, 1 sec had passed. I was on my feet, Ben straight headed into the wind.
“- Dropping everything? “ I asked.
“- Yep, everything” he answered, a very small look of disbelief was still lingering in his eyes.
And he backed the main to take the load off the remaining lower starboard stay.
I straight went for the main sail. As my first reflex was to drop the biggest load on the mast. But I heard Ben say:
“No, drop the jib first!”
As I was reaching for the winch. I heard him say (still unbelievably calm and composed)
“Anna, the spinnaker halyard”.
I knew straight away was he wanted to do. So, I left the heady alone, jumped to get the spinnaker halyard after quickly getting it off the cleat on the mast, (while Ben was saying something along the lines of me being too slow…nevermind),
I brought him the halyard and we bowlined it to the back cleat. Back to the mast, tightening it as much as we could.
I then dropped the jib, half tied it, Ben put the outboards down, started them and headed into the wind to allow me to drop the main.
The whole thing took 3 minutes at most.
We finally took care of our flying stay and secured it to the side of our vessel to stop it from scratching everything.
We started motoring toward Moreton Island, cleaning up our deck in shambles and licking up our wounds.
Instant hangover. Five minutes before we were a flying machine and now we were just counting our blessings to still have a mast standing up. Just unbelievable.
Turns out it was the cap shroud turnbuckle which cracked and let go. A visual inspection of the port one revealed that there is also a crack there and it was only a matter of time before we would have run into trouble anyway. The fact that it didn’t happen when we were pushing the boat and being filmed is just amazingly lucky. Loosing the full rig, sails included (even as old and stretched as they are) would be extra painful for us as we aren’t covered by insurance for this kind of event.
This is what happen when you bay sail and work both full time. You get lazy and the rig inspections are not carried as they should. If this sounds familiar to you now and you haven’t looked at your rig in a little while, go have a look at it right now.
Anyway, now we have no other choice than to seriously think of our rig options and we are fantasizing already of Kevlar rigging and Wichard turnbuckles….