Yachts and boats on Internet Video
( ......the sailing yacht Condor of Bermuda has rounded the Scilly Isles in the 1979 " Storm " Fastnet and is heading East..... )
The waves were still huge and we were carried along by them, surfing at 16 or 17 knots. However, the boat felt underpowered. We had about 25 knots of apparent wind and we all knew that there was only one thing for it - we had to go to a chute( spinnaker ).
There are a lot of offshore sailors who don't even know how to put up a chute on a yacht and they would certainly have never imagined that you could fly one in 40 or 50 knots of true wind. Peter
( Blake ) had sailed this boat around the world and knew it probably better than anyone else. At the beginning of the race he was worried about our new mast but he was now confident that it would stay up. There was a record at stake and nobody ever broke records who did not take
( calculated ) risks.
We were going to fly the 2.2oz. Each member of the crew moved around the decks preparing and checking and checking again. Meanwhile Condor careered along under main alone, eager for more canvas. Peter guided her down the waves, his eyes roving over the deck checking what had already been checked before, weighing up the risks, calling on all his experience.
We needed more speed.
Finally, the chute was ready in its three legged bag that prevented it from filling until required. I gripped the halliard, looked toward Peter for the final, purposeful nod and then pulled like a maniac to get it to the top of the towering mast. Dennis came up to help on the last few feet and we sweated up the halliard as sailors have done since the days of the square riggers.
A line led up to the centre of the star shape that hung innocently from the mast. The two Andy's tugged on it; it would not come. Take in on the sheet, more, more - Bang!!, the bag opened and suddenly there was the spinnaker, straining to pull the mast out of the deck. Condor accelerated instantly like a jet with its brakes just released. Sheet!! Sheet!! The sail had to be flat. Now she was going !! We grinned at each other like naughty children. He must be mad - but what exhileration; adrenalin coursed through our veins. Now she used the waves. They towered high astern, flecked with foam, lifted up the transom, pointing the bow down into the chasm that was the trough of the wave. Then she began her mad slide like a big dipper. The bow wave grew higher and higher and moved aft until it was higher than the boom. Astern grew a cockerels tail 4 foot high.
The digital speedometer went through 10 knots and began to count again; through 10 knots again and on and on until it reached 9.5 knots. A total of 29.5 knots. Crossbow here we come !! Where is Beken now !!
A sound like a rifle shot brought us back to reality. The block that the spinnaker sheet turned around on the starboard quarter had exploded. Les had his leg in the path of the released rope as it ripped through six feet of stanchions as though they were not even there. He could easily have lost his leg. Luckily he did not but he limped in memory of his close call for days after. " Get the guy in" I shouted, but this crew were faster than the time that it took for somebody to tell them what to do and already the grinders were grinding in the lazy guy. Gradually we got the spinnaker under control again and breathed a sigh of relief. Our hearts pounded.
Once more the wild surfing began. Spud had given up navigating. The miles flashed by. When would we be there ?? Very, very soon !!
" Look out everyone, she's going " What now?? I sat by the centre coffee grinders. If she broaches, I thought, I'll hang on to these. My expensive oilskin with it's built in safety harness lay on the deck. The safety harness clipped to a wire and protecting the jacket from going anywhere!! It was too late for it now. Slowly, reluctantly, accepting the power of the sea over her Condor swung around into the wind, heeling more and more.
Pray to every god you have ever heard of and hang on !! Beam onto the sea and the wind, she was flattened.
If it had been my Laser I would have climbed over the windward side and stood on the centre board. If only it was that easy. I ended up sitting on the coffee grinders, which were now horizontal, looking down at the, amazingly calm, sea. Slowly she began to right herself. Then the spinnaker went aback and she went astern. Peter said at 3 knots. The oncoming waves finally halted her
( Peter had steered her around in an arc ). The spinnaker half filled, obstinately refusing to set. For endless seconds Peter juggled with the wheel, coaxing and understanding. Suddenly the chute filled with a crack and we were off again. Everything was all right. We had not lost anybody.
Were we insane?? The exhileration was draining. A three point turn in a 78 footer with a spinnaker up in 45 knots of breeze. "If that happens again we'll have to get it off " said Peter. We laughed uncertainly.
Then, sliding down a wave, we caught up with the one in front. The bow buried itself into the sea. I reached for my favourite coffee grinder and put a lover's grip on it. The sea foamed up over the foredeck, past the mast, over me and I then did not know how far behind. Deeper and deeper she buried. Then we were on our beam ends again and she was coming up, shaking off the water, undefeated, her mast still standing erect. Again the spinnaker filled and we careered away. " Get it off " Peter said " enough is enough ".
The Helping Red Hand