These events are from somewhere in the middle of our Leg 1 Race 2 from Portimao to Punte del Este and are to the best of my recollection.
This morning Sanya watch starting at 0400 arrived on deck with the Code 2 Spinnaker flying. Now when Rick, Ollie and Me went to bed the Code 3 was flying. So how did we not notice the overnight swap? Previous nighttime drops of spinnaker usually came with so much noise and pandemonium down below that sleeping through was just not an option. Spinnaker drop ends with the sail down below usually in a hopelessly unsorted mess which needs to be cleaned up and properly packed away. Rick is such a take action person that he just leaps out of his bunk to start helping if not leading the effort to get the spinnaker sorted. So I try to follow his lead as it seems to always be a big job. But this night was somehow different as we both slept through it peacefully unaware!
Step back a few nights on our 1600 to 2000 watch. We were sailing into dusk with the Yankee 1 and Staysail and cursing the uncooperative south easterly breeze that just would not clock as predicted by Time Zero weather forecasts to the more favorable north easterly trades which would allow us to flatten out the boat with evolution from white sails to spinnaker and generally improve life aboard Sanya. But this was just not the case as for days the winds just refused to match the forecasts we were getting from race HQ.
So Skipper Seumas comes on deck to take stalk of the situation. Seems winds are building and it looks like we will be sailing into squally conditions so he calls for Yankee 1 down and Yankee 2 up. So our watch goes to work. By now we know or surely should know how to do this evolution. I go to the forward bow armed with sail ties firmly knowing we need three strong persons forward of the inner forestay and three more persons aft of that inner stay just to wrestle the angry beast down to the decks and get it secured. First order of business position your people appropriately. I definitely don’t want to be the frontman as he has to get forward of the outer forestay. Luckily for me we have very capable thrill seekers that clamor for that job. First order of business for me is to get my sail ties laid out so the Yankee will fall onto them allowing us to then get it tied up. This means tieing off each sail tie from one lifeline rail to the other perpendicular to the long axis of the boat. Many ties are barely long enough to accomplish this feat. What sort of not to tie? Need something that will hold but can also be easily untied. Now in hindsight I believe that to be a round turn and two half hitches. Note to self: Must remember to reserve the longest sail tie for tying up the hanks.
When the Yankee 1 comes down it demands to be well a choreographed affair. The six grabbers have to be in place and ready. The person on the halyard must release and ease at just the right rate for us to pull the beast in hopefully dropping to some at least rudimentary flakes inside the lifelines and on top of those precious sail ties for as quickly as we can get it down we must strangle the beast with this ties so that it cannot get blown overboard.
As I tie off my sail tie around the Yankee I suddenly realize that I have looped in some of the lifeline netting and the top rail so that just won’t do! We would never be able to drag the sail back to get it bagged and down below if were tied that way. So I leap way too far over the sail and the leeward rail head first to take corrective actions my tether and close by mates and holding me fast to the boat. It is not before a few face plants in the oncoming waves that I have re-routed the tie and am back safely inside the lifelines and getting the yankee properly tied off.
Un-hanking is yet another difficult chore. Each hank, and corresponding sail flake must be dragged forward enough to release pressure allowing that now thoroughly drenched front man to muscle it of the stay and on to the long sail tie which we have now tied between the two forestays like a temporary clothesline. There always seems to be at minimum one hank that won’t open and we curse why did we not replace said hank during the last evolution!
So we finally get this sail off and back in the bag with one false start of having the tack end of the sail bag at the wrong end of the sail. We quickly correct that and move on to dragging the Yankee 2 out of the port side salon on to deck and get that sail up without issue.
So then naturally these uncooperative winds assert themselves by immediately going light. What can you do? Winds and conditions seem to be quite variable and the Yankee 2 stays up during the night, our once semi comfortable lead over Qingdao slowly diminishing as our conservative sailplan for the remainder of the night gave them room to make gains.
It’s 0400 again and Rick, Ollie, Dennis, Michelle, Ivy and Me are back on deck. Now it is pitch black darkness as far as I am concerned. At age 59 my vision in low light is just not good. I need prescription glasses to see clearly both for closeup and for distance but in this predawn with no moon and clouded over skies my glasses just further limit the feeble light. On previous nights like this I have proven my inability to handle the helm before sunrise.
So Skipper Seamus comes on deck mid shift and we immediately know he is up to no good! He calls for a racing headsail change – Yankee 1 on deck hanked on, then Yankee 2 down, then sheets retied and Yankee 2 up. I dutifully head to the bow thankfully this time Dennis wants the front position and I take the number three slot. We get this evolution done without issue and even secure a compliment from Skipper Seumas afterwards – Best racing headsail change to date – Thanks Skipper!
Later same day there are some more cooperating winds and the other watch manages to get the code 2 spinnaker up and flying. Sanya boat and crew are Finally more happy! At the tail end of our 1600 to 2000 watch with night and uncertain winds the call is for code 2 down and Code 3. This time wrestling the code 2 down is difficult so there are manny wraps to be untwisted down below before it can be successfully packed. Rick Ollie and I work down below for two hours to get this sorted and finally packed in its bag and into the sail locker. That’s minus two hours of our 8 hour sleep.
Well thats all in a few days racing as we cling to our slowly dismissing lead position over closest boat Quingdao. All others remain hundreds of miles further back.