A long dark night of sewing, and exciting times

WHen you sleep and wake u- 3 or 4 times a day, it gets hard to remember the true sequence of events. In the couple of days since I last wrote, we’v been pushing hard for the scoring gate, which ha meant much terrifying sailing and little sleep for everyone.
Just before the sheet broke on the A3, (last blog), I was downstairs sewing a couple of patches onto the A2, on some small tears we’d discovered while wooling it. It turned out we had another nice day with white sails, sunshne and albatrosses, and didn’t actually come to raise the kite until evening. During the day, Invst Africa, instealth, appeared on AIS, so we knew exactly where they were even if nobody else did.
It was twilight, almost dark, when we finally hoisted the A2. An exemplary hoist for once. Sadly, no sooner was it up when we saw the dim sky shining through another small hole, and down it had to come for repairs again. On closer inspection we found 9 small holes, fanning out about a metre above the clew. SInce it was really the sail we should have been flying, it was straight on with sewing, no time for sleep. First Meg and I, then Maaike and I, spent a long night under red lights in the saloon, the whirr of the sewing machine a strangely homely sound as Henrietta sped through the night under the A3 (heavyweight kite).
By morning the kite was fixed, and no longer needed. But not having it overnight was probably part of the reason IA got past us – not something we enjoy at all.
ANother night wtch, another kitemare. We’re flying the A2 again, and the wind pipes up, again. A series of knockdowns and roundups, the kite flogging wildly over the water, me perched on the high side easing the sheet as fast as I can – it’s obvious we have to douse, but the ‘letterbox’ is not set up. It is a pitch dark noght so we have the steamong light on, a first for us, to illuminate the kite and the foredeck. THe ring of light somehow makes the dark raging around us even more dramatic. We can all see James go forward with the lazy sheet, to set it up across the boom for the letterbox. We can also see a loop of the sheet hanging from the clew of the sail and dragging in the water. I’m about to yell ‘don’t let go of it!’ to James, not that he’d here me anyway, when he does momentarily put the end of the sheet down on deck to reclip his harness, and in no time the sea whips it away, and the entire sheet is in the water, streaming from the clew of the sail into the dark.
THe roundups and floggings continue – Eric is on the helm now and obviously thinking furiously. As the guys start getting a sheet to attach to the tack for retrieval, Eric comes up witth a better plan – a Prussic knot to slide a spare sheet up the active one towards the clew, giving us a new lazy sheet to pull on for the douse. It works. but it’s a huge effort, another all hands on deck and lost sleep for everyone. NO damage to the kite though! But the wind is too strong and gusty for even the A3, so it’s white sails again until dawn – we unhank the yankee one and drag it back to the cockpit, and raise the A3. All in rain and darkness. It’s becoming a familiar story.
Later, the same day. (Yesterday?) Invest Africa are only 6 or so miles ahead, and we are still pushing hard. The A2 is up, and I take over the helm from Maike. We are sailing at a tight angle to the wind for the sail, it’s fast and furious, exhilerating as we surge along in the mid and high teens. Grey sea, grey sky, distant birds soaring and dipping, otherwise nothing. Then there’s a bang, and the kite is suddenly a cartoon SPLAT in front of me instead of a graceful curve. THe halyard has broken. Fortunately we’ve seen this before and talked about what to do. I bear away hard to slow down and turn the back of the boat and the rudders away from the kite, now streaming dangerously close to us on the port side. Meg starts organizing setting up the lazy sheet through the A frame, and Eric and the watch below are streaming up onto deck. We get the kite back with no damage – the halyard has just melted through near the top from the forces – as though it’s been cut with a hot knife.
SO it’s back to the A3, and by nightfall we again have a series of roundups . Even with Eric at the helm, it’s very hard to control the kite. I’m trimming again, desperately easing and then pulling in yards of sheet to control the flogging as Henrietta lies down and staggers up again, or rolls wildly from one rail to the other in the waves. ANother all hands douse, and it’s white sails towards the gate, neck and neck with IA. (We’ve just confirmed they beat us by 21 minutes – well done them).
After days like this, I swear I’m giving up ocean racing and taking up knitting. No more ecxitement, please!

One thought on “A long dark night of sewing, and exciting times

  1. Another edge of the chair Blogg Sarah – crikey you certainly know how to take a reader (almost) there ! Don’t blame you for wanting to knit :-) I’m sure you’ll change your mind tho, after a couple of minutes sleep, some sunshine and a good run !! Way to go Hernri Lloyd !

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