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Pip Hare’s top tips for preventing chafe on lines, sails and hardware (27 Feb 2020, 9:15 am)

A sailing boat is a constantly working machine, and when on passage nearly every part will be moving, as well as loading and unloading

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Replaceable Cordura covers on high load sections

Chafe on sails and ropes is something we should expect as part of the general wear and tear on passage, but equally it is something we can protect against. Here are some ideas for keeping your own boat chafe-free:

Sacrificial covers

Think smart about where chafe is going to occur as often it will be in specific, predictable places: halyard exits, clutches or any hard points that a rope needs to go around such as reefing cringles.

In many cases you will see wear in these hot spots while the rest of the rope stays untouched. Rather than repairing after chafe has occurred, think about setting up your running rigging to include sacrificial covers or tails that will leave the main line undamaged and can be replaced as part of your maintenance routine.

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I use sacrificial tails for the outboard ends of my reefing lines. These are Dyneema strops that loop the boom and are then lashed onto the reefing line. When the reef is in place and under tension the Dyneema strop takes the load from the boom through the reefing cringle, where it is quite common for chafe to occur.

The strops are easy to make and replace and will greatly extend the life of your reefing lines. Note that they need to be just the right length to sit through the cringle when the reef is in but not so long that they reach the sheaves in the end of the boom.

I also use Cordura covers on any ropes that I know will be under significant load or prone to moving around at different angles: For example the top half metre of my spinnaker halyards and the last metre of the 2:1 tack line for my Code 0.

This is a quick and easy job for a rigger to do and covers can be replaced each season rather than discarding the rope. You can also use sacrificial covers to protect halyards from clutch damage, and spinnaker sheets from rubbing against shrouds.

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Hardware can suffer the effects of chafe too

Deck gear

If a particular part of a rope is regularly chafing then that could be an indication that some of your deck gear is damaged, or that there is misalignment in the system. Don’t ignore these signs as this situation will only get worse. Regularly walk the deck, looking for damage, checking for bad leads, or misaligned purchases.

In particular, check blocks for loose or damaged sheaves, ensure all split pins and rings are taped and look for any pinch points where sails or ropes may get trapped and damaged. These often occur aloft, where diagonals and shrouds terminate at a spreader end.

These areas can be protected using a short length of line or tight elastic, tied between the two stays just above the pinch point, which should act as a deflector to stop any sails from dropping into that area.

Check alignment between mast blocks, deck organisers and clutches, pay attention to the height of deck gear as well; a rope going into a clutch or deck organiser at the wrong height will over time damage both the line and the deck hardware itself.

Halyards

If using a 2:1 halyard beware of over-hoisting as this can result in your top block being pulled into the top of the mast and damaging both the mast sheave and the block itself. Mark the halyard with a whipping (one that can be also be seen in the dark) to show maximum hoist.

On longer passages think about moving halyards by small amounts each day to avoid constant wear from clutches and mast sheaves in the same place. If easing the main halyard then rig up a Cunningham to control luff tension instead.

Check your forward halyards before every hoist, and every evening in case they are needed overnight; halyards twisted around furling gear or rubbing against each other are prime areas for chafe.

Check all high load areas regularly throughout longer voyages. When spinnakers come up and down make a point of checking the top half metre for signs of wear, the same with tack lines.

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Dyneema sacrificial tails on reefing lines

Chafe to sails

When fitting a new main ensure that you apply spreader patches from the very beginning. These are patches of sticky Dacron that will need to be stuck onto both sides of the mainsail where it naturally lies on the spreaders.

If you are fitting these yourself chose a windless day; hoist the main and then send someone up in a bosun’s chair with a marker pen to indicate where the spreaders are. Don’t forget reefed positions as well.

It’s normal for sails to experience some wear at the spreaders because they do lie naturally against the rig when sailing downwind. To minimise damage, try not to let the main out so far that the sail ‘bends’ itself around the spreader ends by using more vang downwind to keep the top of the mainsail from falling down to leeward. If this makes the helm heavy then reef early.

Every time you take or shake a reef, ensure the mainsail is clear of the spreaders. To achieve this when sailing downwind, over-sheet the jib and then steer a couple of degrees higher than your downwind course. As soon as there is airflow across the jib it will be channelled directly into the back of the mainsail and keep it off the spreaders.

Spinnakers move around a lot more than any other sail and so must be regularly checked to ensure they’re not rubbing on the rig, and that loaded sheets and guys are not chafing against hard surfaces. In particular watch out for the guy against a furled headsail if reaching – a loaded guy can burn through a UV strip in no time.

Firs published in the February 2020 edition of Yachting World.

The post Pip Hare’s top tips for preventing chafe on lines, sails and hardware appeared first on Yachting World.


When is the best time to sail away? The 9 key X factors to consider (27 Feb 2020, 8:38 am)

Jeremy Wyatt, Communications Director for World Cruising Club, has seen many bluewater cruisers set off on the voyage of a lifetime. He has advice on when, and how, to go

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Photo: James Mitchell

I spend much of my time chatting with aspiring bluewater cruisers at boat shows and the seminars we organise, about all aspects of ‘living the dream’. Some have a well thought out plan, and start the conversation with: “We’ll be going in three years”. To them I say well done and keep focused.

The harder conversations often begin with “As soon as X is sorted, we’ll be off.” In mathematics, ‘X’ is a variable, sometimes unknown. It’s particularly apt when thinking about the best time to head off cruising, as the factors influencing your decision will vary depending on many variables. Here are my thoughts on some of the most common ‘X’ factors to consider when planning for the best time to go cruising.

1. Employment

Or perhaps the lack of it, for to truly enjoy your liveaboard cruising life it’s best done without work interrupting. Trying to balance work and sailing is hard, even more so when you have to fit-out and prepare a boat.

2. Funds

This is related to employment. If you can organise your life to have sufficient funds without needing to work every day, then that is another box ticked. How much is sufficient? Well, that depends on your lifestyle. Most cruisers tend to spend what they can afford and manage their cruising life accordingly. Just remember that once you have bought and fitted out your boat, that is the significant spend done.

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3. Health

Health, or relative health, is important. This is probably the number one factor that causes cruisers to cancel or radically alter their ARC sailing plans. It’s perhaps understandable, as those with the time and the funds to go sailing tend to be retired and therefore at a time of life when health shocks are statistically more likely.

4. Children/grandchildren

The age of your children is important. With younger children the best time to cruise is from around six or seven years old through to about 12. Children need to be old enough to listen and understand instructions from their parents – their safety will depend on this – but young enough to still enjoy spending time with their parents; and lastly not yet into the secondary education exam pathway.

Having grown-up kids may not make it any easier, at least until they have flown the nest and are independent. Even then, the emotional tug of a first or new grandchild can also be an anchor to keep you close to home. Grabbing your gap-year 18-25 year old son or daughter (or their friends) can be a good crew strategy, but best have two teenagers with you as they like company of their own kind.

5. Partner

Unless you are a dedicated single-hander, or have a large pool of family and friends to crew for you, then you’ll want your significant other to be with you. Often it needs some time to build confidence and experience as a cruising couple, not to mention getting used to living in a space just 45ft long!

sailing-escape-world-arc-sailor-age-pie-chart6. Parents

Caring for ageing parents is becoming the norm these days as we all live longer. This is often a big factor on when to go, or not.

7. Pets

The thought of leaving your fluffy bundle of fun at home with family or friends may be too much for some people to consider. Certainly taking Fido away with you is one solution, but it will impact on the type of boat you chose and where you’re able to go.

If you’re planning a round the world voyage then Australia and New Zealand will be off the itinerary due to very strict quarantine rules.

8. Home

Perhaps one of the easier factors to get right. It may be a case of leaving the grown-up kids at home, or finding a tenant, or a housesitter. Some do ‘sell-up and sail’ but this brings its own difficulties since it involves major life de-cluttering – not an easy thing to do.

9. A suitable boat

No less important that the factors above, in some ways it easier to solve. My advice for offshore cruising is to get as much boat as you can afford, and no more than you can handle with two people. Don’t forget that this boat will be your home for many months, so you need to enjoy living on it, and have sufficient room to store all those trappings of boating life. Locker space makes living easy!

Final thoughts

I can’t tell you when is the best time to go off and sail, since your mix of ‘X’ factors will be different to mine. Having all your boxes ticked will be the right time for you. However, having seen many plans fall away when one or more of the ‘X’ factors isn’t right, I’m a strong advocate of ‘don’t leave it too late’ or you may not go at all.

First published in the December 2019 edition of Yachting World.

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Sailing Alaska: A family adventure around the blissfully remote Admiralty Island (26 Feb 2020, 9:08 am)

Jessie Rogers and her husband, Kit, head to Alaska with their family to rekindle sailing adventures of the past

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Admiralty Island is protected from the Pacific by Baranof and a string of other islands. Photo: Mark A Johnson / Alamy

Standing on the bow of our borrowed 36ft steel cutter, I watched as my four children paddled the inflatable kayak through the iceberg-laden water. The sea had been busy with humpback whales that day and they had been unsure about launching the kayak at first, but with their father’s calm encouragement they had donned their lifejackets and paddled out.

I was feeling distinctly less calm as I watched my entire progeny drifting through the freezing waters in the flimsy looking craft. Then, breaking the surface with a breathy sigh, a whale appeared just metres from the boat. For a few moments Kit and I looked on as this enormous beast shared the waters of the Alaskan archipelago with our awestruck boys who could do little more than sit and stare. And then, quietly, the whale lifted its huge tail fluke and disappeared below the surface.

In our early twenties, Kit and I had lived and worked at sea on sailing boats researching whales and dolphins, before running our own boat as a filming platform for the first BBC Blue Planet series. As our filming contract was drawing to an end I found myself pregnant with our first son. Despite a valiant attempt to continue running a charter boat with a baby in tow we finally caved in, to a resounding chorus of “I told you so” ringing in our ears.

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Humpback whales are now commonly seen in Alaskan waters. Photo: Design Pics Inc / Alamy

Three more sons later and we had well and truly hung up our long-distance sailing boots. Eventually we became involved in helping to run the family Contessa boat yard in Lymington and, as the bonds of family and commitment took hold, we relinquished dreams of setting sail anywhere exciting. Getting all six of us back to the sorts of places we had been lucky enough to go was, we realised, financially if not physically impossible.

In the end we realised how lucky we had been to have our stolen decade of being ocean nomads while we were young and free, and took our pleasure vicariously from our customers instead as they breezed in with salt in their hair and stories fresh in their hearts.

And then came a message from an American filmmaker friend who we had worked with in the Sea of Cortez. Shane Moore is an exceptional cameraman who has spent time filming in some of the most challenging and inhospitable places on earth. I’ll always remember the Skype call that would give us the chance to show our boys some of the wonders we’d been lucky enough to experience.

“I’ve got myself a steel sailboat up in Alaska – she’s just sitting there if you ever want to use her”. It took about one and half minutes before we decided to call back. Do you really mean it? Then yes, we’re coming.

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Alaskan arrival

Just reaching Southeast Alaska was an adventure: flying first to Vancouver, then Seattle, then finally into Juneau and a part of the world where the roads end and the only way to reach your next destination is by seaplane or boat. We found the 36ft Brent Swain steel cutter Tagish tucked in a little marina in the north of Juneau town, sandwiched between no-nonsense fishing boats, the odd motor cruiser and very few other sailing boats.

The boys were enthralled by the sea eagles circling above and the huge salmon flicking their tails around in the icy water. They entertained themselves fishing while we familiarised ourselves with the boat. Provisioning was expensive and the local supermarket was an eye-opener with rows of vegetables alongside semi-automatic hunting rifles lined up for anyone to buy.

It was essential to get our provisioning right because our plan was to circumnavigate the uninhabited Admiralty Island. Admiralty is still sheltered from the Pacific by further outlying islands and the sea state at this time of year is predictably calm, meaning we’d have to do quite a lot of motoring but there’d be nowhere to stock up on food or refuel.

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The Rogers family sailed on Tagish, their friend Shane Moore’s Brent Swain steel cutter

Tagish was perfect for us, not dissimilar in layout to our Contessa 32 but bigger; she was a no-frills sailing boat with a large fuel and water tank, a cosy yet unfussy interior and an inflatable kayak as a dinghy. There was just enough room for the six of us, although one of our sons elected to sleep on the floor rather than share a bunk.

As we set off from Juneau across the harbour I looked back across at Kit, cradling a cup of coffee with a massive grin on his face. It was like stepping back 20 years.

Navigating in these waters has become decidedly more straightforward since then. Where previously a GPS position would need to be methodically and regularly recorded on to the paper chart, today a glance at the downloaded Navionics chart meant we had an accurate position and chart data even when out of range of phone signal.

Nonetheless, although downdraft katabatic winds from the mountains and glaciers were unlikely at this time of year, a combination of icy waters, a tidal range of up to 7m and less than hospitable conditions ashore meant there was still no room for complacency.

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Snow-capped mountains are the backdrop to sailing in Alaska. Photo: Mark A Johnson / Alamy

Our first night was spent tied up alongside on a government funded dock in Taku Harbour, the wooden remnants of the old pontoons poking up around the cove like rotten teeth. The bays and inlets in this part of the world are mind blowing. You could head down any number of the tributaries we saw on the charts and spend a whole two weeks simply exploring these back waters.

This now deserted part of the world had once been thriving with traders: fur, gold, fish; so many natural resources that drew people from all over the world into this extraordinarily abundant yet challenging landscape.

Leaving Taku Harbour the next morning the air was chilled by the drifting icebergs sent down through the nearby inlet of Tracey Arm from the calving Sawyer Glacier. We were moving away from the day-tripping range of Juneau and the only other vessels sharing the waters now were one or two fishing boats and the occasional distant cruise ship.

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Exploring icebergs calved from the Sawyer Glacier that have found their way into the inlet of Tracey Arm

Humpback soup

Before the trip, we’d been careful not to overpromise our children with tales of breaching whales and bow riding dolphins; long weeks spent afloat with disappointed camera crews had taught us that nothing can be guaranteed when it comes to wildlife.

But in the 25 years since Kit was last here things seemed to have changed and within hours of our second day out we found ourselves in what could reasonably be described as humpback soup. We motored on through the still calm waters wondering if a whale might breach right on top of us.

Nosing our way into a long finger of a harbour on the evening of our fourth day we noticed a distinct rattle from the engine. Although not strictly an engineer, Kit has spent a respectable amount of time dismantling engines in remote locations and is pretty handy when it comes to keeping things going.

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Berthed in Petersburg for repairs, the Rogers family were made very welcome by locals

We dropped the anchor and Kit took off the front of the engine. Though we’d have loved to stretch our legs, a combination of massive mosquitos, bears strolling along the beach and the inflatable kayak that would accommodate only four of us at a time kept us firmly on board.

After an hour or so of tinkering Kit found we needed a new crank pulley and would have to make a detour to the fishing village of Petersburg further south to try to pick one up.

There was no phone signal in this backwater of Admiralty and as we motored gingerly off the anchorage the next morning, away from the comfortingly named Snug Cove, we were feeling vulnerable.

Attempting to hail a distant fishing boat on the VHF we realised we had no VHF contact either and would have to get close to Petersburg before we could hope to contact Shane and try to order the part.

With extraordinary efficiency Shane managed to get the part delivered in a matter of two days, in which time we’d been welcomed into the small fishing community of Petersburg with open arms.

Don Holmes and his wife Susan lent us their truck, welcomed us into their house for dinner, showed us around the island and even took the boys and me on a tour to a nearby glacier in their boat while Kit fitted the newly arrived part to the faulty engine.

By the time we left Petersburg three days later we felt much more at home in these remote waters, bolstered by renewed confidence in our engine and the knowledge that the local waterborne community was looking out for fellow mariners.

Sailing on towards a tiny settlement on the south of Baranof Island, where the hot springs bring a smattering of seaplanes and the odd seafaring tourist, we passed a family of sea otters. Lying on their backs they were seemingly unperturbed by us as drifted close by them.

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Blue skies and glassy waters meant lots of time spent under engine

Baranof Springs is also a seasonal home to a small and dedicated group of researchers who have been studying the whale and dolphin population here for many years. They confirmed that despite remaining firmly on the endangered species list, many more humpbacks are coming to these waters to feed than were here when Kit last visited on a trip to make an IMAX film called Whale 25 years ago.

Now we were on the home stretch and heading away from Baranof. We made our way across to the west of Admiralty Island, enjoying a slightly fresher breeze, which allowed us to sail and cover some ground without the use of the engine. Feeling confident now in the boat and our surroundings we were tempted by the sight of a brown bear and her cub on the shore.

A westerly breeze meant we were on a lee shore but a quick look at the chart told us there was plenty of water, the cub was so sweet and we all wanted a closer look. Kit grabbed his camera and the boys were running up and down the deck.

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The four Rogers boys whale spotting from an inflatable kayak

The water was getting thick with kelp and suddenly I had a gut wrenching sense that we were too close. As I shouted to Kit to check the depth I watched the colour drain from his face; camera abandoned as he turned the boat abruptly up into the wind, started the engine and motored out the way we had come in. We had, after all, succumbed to complacency and felt suitably chastened by our close call.

As we drew towards the end of our circumnavigation we’d become quite accustomed to the prolific wildlife; bears wandering along the beaches, lob-tailing humpbacks, bow-riding dolphins and families of sealions had become a familiar sight. One day, as we made our way up the back of Admiralty, we passed by a huge family of Orcas.

Something harder to get used to was the extraordinary sense of your own vulnerability and insignificance in the midst of this vast and inhospitable landscape. In an age where the world feels overrun and overdone by humans it was a privilege to spend time in a part of the world where nature still appears to have the upper hand.

sailing-alaska-jessie-rogers-bw-headshot-600px-squareAbout the author

Jessie Rogers and her husband Kit operated a camera boat in Alaska for the filming of the first BBC Blue Planet series. They now run the Jeremy Rogers boatyard in Lymington, building and restoring classic Contessas.

First published in the February 2020 issue of Yachting World.

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Tidal streams: How to predict them and use them to your advantage (25 Feb 2020, 9:19 am)

Meteorologist and sailor Chris Tibbs shares his top tips of how to forecast and verify tidal streams

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The red route shows the optimum course from the Needles to Cherbourg using the GFS wind model and PredictWind tides (on Expedition). The blue route is just wind without any tidal input

Whether racing or cruising, our first thoughts are always: ‘What is the tide doing?’ When I grew up sailing in Scotland, leaving anchorages before dawn to catch a tide was the norm. Not only does tidal flow make a significant difference to our speed over the ground, it also affects comfort; it might be quick with 3 knots of tide under us, but if that’s against 20 knots of wind it’ll be uncomfortable verging on damaging or dangerous.

Most sailing areas around the world are tidal; on our recent passage to Australia the tides and currents could be quite vicious around the islands and atolls of the South Pacific. Information is not very reliable but trying to enter a lagoon against the tide is tricky, if not impossible, as the ebb will often run at six-plus knots.

We made up our own tables from observations to estimate slack water and tide times. This does vary as a high swell adds water to the lagoon increasing the length and speed of the ebb.

Planning

We have been helped for many years by the Admiralty Tidal Stream Atlases – the NP series covers all of UK waters. Knowing the time of high water at Dover we can work out tidal flow direction around the country and, with a little extra work, we’ll also get the rates depending on whether it is neaps or springs. Admiralty charts have tide diamonds on them giving speed and direction.

This is great for planning passages in a traditional way with paper charts to determine courses and tidal gates, and I for one would not want to sail distances without them. However, we’re now in a more electronic era and can download electronic forms of tidal atlas and animate them. There is a mass of information at our fingertips but we still have to be able use it.

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Tidal atlases are a must but away from heavily raced areas, such as the Solent, although the general flows shown in the atlas will be good the detail is likely to be a bit sketchy. Apart from the rule of thumb that the tide will run fastest where the water is deep and less in the shallows, eddies may also be found close to the coast and the tide will turn first near the shore. For this we not only need good charts, but also a good echo sounder.

With GPS we tend to get lazy and do not calibrate our log to the extent that we used to. Having an accurate log and compass to compare with the GPS speed and COG (course over the ground) will quickly tell us what the current is and will indicate where tide lines are.

Tidal atlases work from a reference port for tide times, and these differ depending on the source of the data. Even for Portsmouth (the main reference port for the Solent) there can be over half an hour difference on high water depending on the source. In addition, meteorological conditions will change the time and depth of high water, which makes our starting point variable.

Verify the tide

I use every opportunity to verify what the tide is doing when passing a mark. The tide atlas will not be perfect, but it will give a good guide; there will be a certain amount of interpolation between springs and neaps as well as a change from six hours after, to six hours before, as our tides do not run on a 12-hour cycle.

In low tidal areas and areas without good information we sometimes use a tide stick to measure the current. This can be anything from a complex float with a built-in GPS (which I’ve used at Olympic venues to map tidal flows), to a simple weighted float dropped in the sea by a reference mark (fishing pot or similar). By using a stopwatch and compass, a direction and speed can be approximated.

I have found this particularly useful in the Mediterranean where currents are often wind driven and not very predictable. It became routine at classic yacht regattas in the Med to use a RIB early in the day to check flow rates around the local race area, as these would vary considerably depending on the gradient wind and after periods of rain. Off Imperia in Italy one year there was close to 1.5 knots of current around the headlands, making it important to stay close to the land.

Without a RIB, passing close to any buoy will give a chance to estimate current along with your electronic instruments. Around the cans I use a tidal atlas and keep an eye on the depth of water; tide lines can often be seen by a change in the pattern of the waves or by a line of foam, seaweed, or refuse indicating where there is a change in speed or direction of the flow.

Hitting laylines is difficult across the tide and while electronics help with this, pre-planning and a ready reckoner with boat speed and flow will give an indication of how many degrees to add or subtract to allow for the tide. The more we practice with them the better we’ll get.

Offshore I’m a fan of integrating tides into a routing program, using Expedition software with tides from Predictwind or Tidetech. I’ll run routing with and without tides to get a feel for their effect as well as changing polar boat speeds to determine where tide gates are and if we will hit them or not.

Top tips for predicting tidal streams

  • Get the most accurate tidal information that you can, be it electronic or paper.
  • Verify it at every opportunity.
  • Look for tide lines.
  • Your echosounder is important.
  • Calibrated instruments will quickly tell you what the tide is and when you cross a tide line. Uncalibrated instruments are misleading.
  • Electronics will help with laylines but are only as good as the tidal flow input.
  • Pinching to round a mark in adverse tide seldom works.
  • If running against the tide, hold the kite to the last possible moment (in light winds after the bow has passed the mark).

First published in the January 2020 edition of Yachting World.

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Yacht shipping: How to prepare your boat for a trip on a transporter ship (24 Feb 2020, 9:09 am)

Shipping your yacht may seem counter-intuitive, but putting wear on someone else’s hull can make more sense than you think, writes Will Bruton

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Transocean yacht shipping is becoming increasingly popular. Photo: Sevenstar Yacht Transport

Bypassing seasonal weather restrictions and being able to relocate quickly are among the factors making yacht shipping more popular than ever.

Cargo ships cruise well in excess of the speeds of even the fastest racing yachts and are rarely delayed due to weather that would make a passage under sail untenable.

But while there is much less wear and tear on your yacht than a 3,000-mile ocean crossing will cause, there are still preparations you need to make sure your yacht is unloaded in good shape. We take a look at the process and how to prepare for it.

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Once the strops are in position the owner and crew disembark for lifting. Photo: Tor Johnson

Why ship?

The beat back across the north Atlantic to Europe via Bermuda and the Azores is, despite its course to windward, a rewarding trip to make. But there’s a good reason many shy away: it’s often hard on the yacht, as well as the crew. Some 3,000 miles of wear on sails, engine and rigging has a significant impact.

For those who have travelled further, maybe across the Pacific, the trip back to Europe also involves significant weather challenges and time demands. Jeremy Wyatt, director of the World Cruising Club, has noticed a steady increase in the number of WCC event participants using yacht shipping services.

“Many are time-poor and unable to take the long periods of time necessary off work to complete ocean crossings. Also, production yachts proportionally suffer greater stress and wear and tear on the north Atlantic route to Europe than traditional heavy displacement boats. So the cost/benefit of shipping over sailing the route swings more towards shipping.”

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Preparations

Preparing a yacht to be shipped should be undertaken with a similar level of attention to detail as getting ready to complete an ocean passage, or riding out a storm season, in order to minimise the chance of damage.

“The best preparation to get your boat ready for shipping is to think of it as winterising it,” explains Sevenstar loadmaster Geert de Krom. “If you stop for a season at home, you’d take the sails off, make everything nice inside, empty your tanks.”

The other thing he advises is to bear in mind that the yacht may well be exposed to the elements. “The big ship is also moving. If it is blowing 25 knots and the ship has its own speed, it can be 40 knots or more over the deck for days.

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The ship’s loading crew will control the yacht during the lifting process. Photo: Tor Johnson

“The best thing to do is try and get rid of all the sail covers; they’re best stored inside. If a sail cover or other wrapping is blowing off it can also damage their neighbours’ yacht.”

The loading process

Yachts need to have their fresh and grey water tanks emptied (before approaching the ship as there will be divers working in the area) but to make sure that there is a little fuel left on board for offloading at the arrival port.

Owners (or their representatives) are responsible for driving their yacht up to the ship. There are good reasons for doing it yourself if you are able. “I always prefer it if the owner is doing it himself,” explains de Krom, “because they know their yachts best.

“For example, you have to remove your backstay, because we have a spreader beam for the lift, and the backstay is always in the way. On some yachts that’s five minutes work, on other yachts where it hasn’t been removed for the past eight years it takes longer.

“But if it is your own yacht, you know where the tools are and it’s more easily done. In the Caribbean a lot of times the delivery skippers will bring the boat alongside, but they don’t always know where the right screwdriver is.

“Normally you have a contact a couple of days before loading, and you’ll be assigned a loadmaster like me. We agree a loading time, and tell them where to come alongside, which side to put the fenders on. We try to prepare all the clients so we don’t have to shout down from the big ship.

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Sevenstar Yacht Transport loadmaster Geert de Krom

“They just come alongside and then we have a crew who climb down the ladder and prepare the yacht for lifting. The lift rig will be lowered down, and we have one or two divers – always on every yacht – to double-check where to put the belts.”

Then we start lifting. The divers can also give us some information on the level of the yacht, if she is too bow down or stern down,” de Krom explains. “When everything looks safe we disembark, and lift the yacht into position on deck.”

Once the yacht is in position on the ship, it will be secured on its stand with lashings, and the stands are welded onto decks. For some yachts the loadmaster will ask for advice on the best strong points to lash the boat from.

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The yacht is lowered onto a cradle in position and secured with tie-down points. Photo: Tor Johnson

“We always ask owners to send us pictures or drawings of previous lifts. But we ship 2,500 yachts a year, so we have quite a good database of how we’ve lifted previous yachts.” Even though the yacht process is a very well oiled machine, de Krom says owners shouldn’t feel rushed at this stage.

“They have plenty of time to prepare the yacht for the voyage. They can close everything down, put fenders inside, lock everything up, take your time. If you are the first yacht and I still have 45 yachts to loads, you have three days! But even if you are the last yacht, I still always offer the owner time.”

Key things to remember before stepping off for the last time are to disconnect the batteries and turn off the AIS. The process for loading onto a semi-submersible ship is slightly different. “Owners should approach it like going into a big lock,” he advises.

“So you’re waiting for the lock with 20, 25 yachts, and you stand by on Ch21, and one by one the loadmasters will call the vessel’s name, and then we have a lot of crew on board to catch the lines and help the skipper moor.

“Once the yachts are on the ship we start deballasting, and we have between 12 and 22 divers in the water. They have underwater stands they put in place so the yachts will not tip over.

“Loading takes place on one day, so if all the yachts are on by 1000, by 1700 the decks will be dry. The clients can stay on board, do some paperwork – or leave when the yacht is ready.

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To prepare for unloading, remove the backstay, put out fenders and long mooring lines, and double-check you have enough charge to start the engine. Photo: Drone Caraibes

“Then by the evening the deck is dry, and the crew put all the sea fastening stands on to prepare for the voyage, which are also welded to the deck.”

How the yacht is secured is crucial. The loss of the 40m superyacht My Song, which fell from a ship last year, is at the centre of a legal case. When yachts ride on deck, they are held in a cradle supplied by either the yacht shipping company or sometimes the yacht owner.

However, if you supply your own cradle you should check it has been designed for use on the deck of a ship as well as for static storage ashore.

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The owner (or owner’s representative) is responsible for driving the yacht up to the ship. Photo: Tor Johnson

While seeing your yacht hoisted atop a giant ship is spectacular, de Krom pleads that owners bring only essential crew who are able to climb the ladders. “It’s not a family party. I’ve had babies onboard coming alongside.”

He also advises that anyone at loading or unloading wears sturdy deck shoes – not flip-flops. “We will provide the safety vest and helmet. But at least wear decent shoes to protect yourself. We work on a big steel vessel and there are so many ways to hurt yourself.”

Dirty air

One of the chief complaints made by owners after yacht shipping is that of dirt from the ship’s exhaust system causing staining to the hull and mast, particularly for yachts positioned downwind of the exhaust.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to wax the hull as well as to take down all canvas and as many lines as possible. Some owners prefer to have the yacht shrink-wrapped for even greater protection.

Andrea Lezzi organised the movement of the 82ft Southern Wind Feelin Good from Thailand to Palma and, unusually, he also accompanied the yacht on the shipping stage of its voyage.

“No one wanted the yacht to go through the Gulf of Aden so it was decided shipping was the best option early on. The ship we were allocated was not a specialist yacht transport ship but a heavy lifting cargo ship that can carry almost anything with its own cranes on board.

“One early miscommunication meant that the loadmasters didn’t realise how big our fixed keel was, assuming it to be retractable.

“The guidance to remove all canvas, indeed anything you can, is worth heeding. On our passage we had 30 knots on the nose of the cargo ship and she moves at 20 knots; that’s 50 knots over the deck.

“So, shipping can still be quite harsh on the yacht in a different way. In total we used 43 lashings onto the deck and 23 inside the yacht for various furnishings.”

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While the cradle is being welded onto the deck owners have some time to make final checks. Photo: Tor Johnson

Lezzi travelled as a passenger on the ship. “I was on board for 40 days in total. At first the shipping line wasn’t keen to accommodate me but we negotiated a rate for a cabin for the passage.

“I polished the yacht before we left – not to a shine, but to protect from dirt. But one big advantage of being on board is that I was able to rinse the yacht off every day with freshwater from the ship.”

Yacht shipping tips 

  • Check your insurance for every stage of the operation in advance. Are you covered at every point in the process?
  • Strip everything you can from the yacht. Canvas work should be removed and lines moused out.
  • Is your yacht watertight? Yachts are exposed to the same weather as on passage and sometimes worse.
  • Is your interior secure? Yacht shipping companies recommend using trucking straps to secure anything below that might move.
  • Empty all water tanks. Fuel tanks should only carry the minimum of fuel necessary to get to and from the ship. Gas bottles should also be removed.
  • Check your yacht shipping contract. Some do not guarantee a delivery date and weather delays do happen, even to big ships.
  • Shop around. Prices for shipment vary significantly based upon many factors, including how full the ship is at the time of quotation. Check if there is a scheduled service as they are often cheaper.
  • Think in terms of winterising your yacht – shipping via northern Europe can expose the yacht to cold. Will anything freeze?
  • Leave the mast up. Specialist yacht shipping companies will ship almost all yachts with the rig stepped.
  • Leave a spare key. If the ship pulls into another port, Customs may want to get on board your yacht

Be covered

Insurance should be an early consideration. Robert Holbrook of Admiral Marine says: “We insure a lot of yachts which are shipped to Europe from places like the Caribbean.

“We have found over the years that the shipper often provides cargo cover which is well priced and so the normal practice is to cease cover on the yacht from the time that the yacht is loaded (usually when the slings are attached), and cover remains suspended until the yacht is safely offloaded onto the water or onto the quay at the destination.

“It is not possible to cover the yacht as cargo under a normal yacht policy. The cover offered while the yacht is being shipped is Institute Cargo Clauses (All Risks).”

If it’s not you loading and unloading, you should also be careful to check there are no blurred lines in liability with who you put in charge of the yacht.

First published in the February 2020 edition of Yachting World.

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Boom preventers: How to use one and why they’re worth the hassle to rig (20 Feb 2020, 9:24 am)

The two minutes it takes to rig a boom preventer properly can pay off in so many ways, yet still a lot of sailors consider it an unnecessary hassle. Pip Hare begs to differ

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Preventers should be rigged from the end of the boom to avoid damage in an accidental gybe

Rigging a boom preventer will allow you to sail a true downwind course without a constant worry about crew safety. I also use it to pin the boom in its preferred position in light winds with sloppy seas.

When racing short-handed with a symmetric spinnaker it also allows me to use aggressive windward heel to make extra metres to leeward. Here are a few of my top pointers for getting the most out of this valuable set-up.

Fixing point

The preventer should be attached to the outboard end of the boom to avoid damaging the tube in the event of an accidental gybe. Some boom end castings have a designated hole through which a preventer can be attached.

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A large bowline loop (the red striped line) affixes the preventer to the boom. The knot can be reached without sheeting the boom in to the boat

If this is not the case then a large bowline loop passed around the end of the boom between the clew and the end casting will work just as well. The loop should be long enough so it can be undone from the side deck without the need to re-centre the boom.

Alternatively, to avoid hauling the boom in every time the preventer is required, make a strop around two-thirds of the length of the boom with an eye in both ends. One end can be permanently attached to the boom and the other will be attached to the running part of the preventer.

The strop can be accessed easily from within the footprint of the deck while the mainsail is out. When not in use, the strop can be tensioned with an elastic cord from either the kicker fitting or inboard boom casting.

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Think of the preventer as a part of your running rigging. It works in opposition to the mainsheet and so needs to be accessible from the cockpit and easy to trim in as you let the mainsail out. For maximum resistance to an involuntary gybe the preventer line should lead from the boom end as far forward as possible, then back to the cockpit.

I often use a forward mooring cleat in lieu of a turning block, making use of the fairlead to avoid toe-rail chafe. If you have no mooring cleats available then use a snatch block on the toe rail or mid-foredeck.

The preventer line should be trimmed from the cockpit using a winch. Often the best winches for this function are halyard winches as they tend not to be in permanent use. This may mean feeding your line under a sprayhood.

If you have absolutely no winches free, then it is also possible to take the line back along the deck to a stern mooring cleat. If choosing this option, check for chafe as the line passes down the deck and ensure the preventer leads into the cleat with a fair or open angle so it can be eased smoothly under load.

Gybing

As soon as your preventer is rigged, make sure your crew are aware of what to do in the event of a gybe, both planned and accidental. For a planned gybe ease the preventer out as the mainsheet is pulled in. Once the attachment point can be reached safely, a crewmember should detach it, working from the leeward side of the boom in case of an early gybe.

Once gybed, set it up again on the other side. Accidental gybing with a preventer rigged can be alarming, especially in the dark, with the noise made by the sail and the windward heel of the boat. In most cases, if the main loads up from behind, the helmsman should gently steer the boat back onto the original gybe. Be aware that the windward heel caused by the backed mainsail will bear the boat away further, so take action promptly.

In the worst cases, boat speed will slow significantly, and steering the yacht back onto the original gybe becomes impossible. In this case the preventer must be eased under control. Make sure all crew are away from the path of the boom and traveller, then gently ease the preventer with sufficient wraps around the winch to maintain smooth control. Pull in the mainsheet as it becomes slack, then gybe the main as normal.

Boom preventer tips

  • Do not tie off the preventer forward. This would require a crew member to go forward for a release in the event of a gybe, whether voluntary or not.
  • Resist the temptation to improvise a ‘quick fix’ to avoid pulling in the main by, say, tying vang fittings to the toe rail.
  • On longer passages regularly check your preventer for chafe, particularly where it crosses the toe rail, or if you are using a mooring cleat as a turning block.
  • A preventer line should be around 1.5 times your boat length and the same diameter as your mainsheet. Double braid polyester is ideal.

First published in the September 2017 edition of Yachting World.

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Francis Joyon sets new Hong Kong-London record on IDEC Sport (19 Feb 2020, 3:29 pm)

French skipper Francis Joyon added yet another world sailing record to his collection this morning

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IDEC Sport sailed under the QE2 bridge at 0737 GMT to set a new Hong Kong to London record of 31 days, 23 hours, 36 minutes and 46 seconds, shaving more than 4 days off Giovanni Soldini’s record, which was set on Maserati in 2018.

Joyon and his crew of Bertrand Delesne, Christophe Houdet, Antoine Blouet and Corentin Joyon sailed a total distance of more than 15,873 miles for an average speed of 20.7 knots.

IDEC Sport’s arrival was made all the more impressive as it came after a tricky overnight passage through the English Channel, navigated without the benefit of radar or AIS due to depleted batteries.

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IDEC Sport skipper Francis Joyon faces the media in London after breaking the Tea Route record

Speaking to Yachting World at Butler’s Wharf, Joyon admitted that the last leg of the journey was the hardest: “We feel well now, but we had three very difficult nights before arriving in London and then we had to tack all the way into the Thames, so it was very tiring and there was not one minute of rest last night. We had no autopilot, no computer, nothing was working on board.”

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The 31.5m trimaran IDEC Sport moored at Butler’s Wharf

“About five miles from the finish, there was a cargo ship alongside us and there was no space to tack, so we had to gybe and during the gybe there was maybe 20cm between us. The cargo ship did not stop, it was very, very dangerous.”

Another challenge that the IDEC Sport crew faced was a broken halyard, which required a crew member to climb the 33.5m mast to repair. The crew worked a 3-hour watch system and used a modified exercise bike to power the winches.

In keeping with the traditions of the clipper route, Joyon brought back a souvenir of his Asian tour: “There was a producer in Vietnam who gave us some tea, so if you want some we will sell it at a very good price!”

The Jules Verne Trophy holder was characteristically tight-lipped about his future sailing plans, adding: “We have no immediate projects with the boat. I just want to rest and have some time with my family.”

The post Francis Joyon sets new Hong Kong-London record on IDEC Sport appeared first on Yachting World.


Battle of the giants: The inside story of the Brest Atlantiques Race (19 Feb 2020, 8:27 am)

The first big ocean test for the Ultime trimarans broke new ground. Helen Fretter talked to the skippers to find out why

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Photo: Alexis Courcoux / Brest Atlantiques

On Tuesday 5 November four giant trimarans – Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, Macif, Sodebo and Actual Leader, and their double-handed crews – left a grey and sodden Brest on Brittany’s most westerly tip. They were two days later than planned after a North Atlantic storm created monstrous 8m seas in Biscay, and hurtled out under triple-reefed mainsails and bare forestays. But still the leaders passed Madeira by Thursday morning and the Canaries by teatime that same day.

The Cape Verdes whistled past their port bow late on Friday night. Then, after crossing the breadth of the Atlantic in less than a weekend, Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was first to arrive at Recife, Brazil, in time for breakfast on Monday.

And so it went on: Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier on Maxi Edmond de Rothschild sailed from Rio to Cape Town – the entire South Atlantic leg, diving down to 43°S – in six days. Only when you plot their track around the vast expanses of the Atlantic Ocean do the incomprehensible speeds the newest foiling trimarans travel at become real.

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Photo: Yvan Zedda

Not until the northbound return stage did they slow down: after rounding Robben Island off Cape Town to port, the next mark of the course was the finish at Brest, necessitating a climb past Namibian shores at mere 20-knot averages before skirting the St Helena High. By the finish, the Ultimes will likely have sailed some 14,000 miles around the Atlantic Ocean in fewer than 30 days.

The Brest Atlantiques Race was borne out of the crumpled carbon of the 2018 Route du Rhum, which had been hotly anticipated as the first transatlantic contest for the trimarans, but turned instead into a demolition derby.

Banque Populaire capsized, broke up, and was ultimately written off. The Gitana stable’s Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had a whole bow section ripped clean off. The newly foiling Macif limped to the finish missing one rudder and one foil, only to be beaten by Francis Joyon’s 12-year-old IDEC Sport, right on the finish line.

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The much feted Ultimes were clearly nowhere near ready for the single-handed around the world ‘Brest Oceans Race’, originally due to start in December 2019. Heads were put together and a new calendar was unveiled, building up to a crewed around the world race in 2021 and a solo in 2023. But first was a new concept, a double-handed looping course around the Atlantic.

A battle of men

Besides being the first big ocean contest for the Ultimes, the Brest Atlantiques Race breaks ground in several ways. It is double-handed, but each boat has a media crewmember on board. Their daily videos have captured life on these extreme machines in a way that we’ve never seen before – the howling background noise, the sheer difficulty in moving around.

The course veers from the path most travelled. While the eastbound course from Europe to Brazil and the Atlantic loop from South America to the Cape of Good Hope are well practised segments of any around the world course, the return leg – turn left at Cape Town, then head north or north-east – is much rarer.

Also unique is the length of the competition: at one month it is not the exhausting sprint of a transatlantic race, nor is it quite as gruelling as a full around the world loop. Pacing it was always going to be a challenge.

But racing Ultimes is not really about pacing over days, weeks or months. It is about what happens in microseconds, the tiny fractions of margin which these skippers must operate within to avoid errors, when errors could potentially see them cartwheeling a 100ft, €10m trimaran. Even among the superhuman world of short-handed racing, the Ultime skippers are dicing with incomprehensible levels of risk.

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The helming position on Sodebo has small windshields but is still exposed to the elements. Photo: Martin Keruzoré

“The mode we sail these boats in is almost like an ORMA 60 mode,” explained Cammas, who sailed the notoriously tender ORMA trimarans during the early 2000s. “You are on the sheet to release quickly, and you have to stay on the sheet all the time. When you are on the limit you have less than a second to react.”

Every skipper said that the most dangerous moments in these giant trimarans are sudden changes of wind speed and direction – just the type of conditions you get in mid-Atlantic squalls.

With risk, comes stress. The boats themselves are deceptively reassuring, Caudrelier explained before the race. “It’s like comparing an old car with a new car, you go faster in a new car but you also have better brakes, you are more protected in case of a crash, the tyres are better. So the boats feel quite safe, it is very impressive. We were going 25, 26, 27 knots upwind in big 4m waves, and it was comfortable.

“But the hardest thing is the tension. Whenever you are on a multihull, you are thinking: if I am late, if I don’t anticipate, if I make a mistake, I am going to capsize. There is so much power that if you make a mistake there is no escape.”

The boats simply do not compare to even ocean monohulls. “You make a small mistake – and you have 70 tonnes in the mainsail, which would be two or three tonnes in the Volvo 65s. It’s 160 tonnes righting moment.”

The stress is exacerbated by the constant noise and violent motion. Sodebo, with her cockpit area forward of the mast, is even noisier. Co-skippers Thomas Coville and Jean Luc Nélias wear ear defenders to rest. They started the race in rugby helmets and have a monkey bar rack of handholds in the roof to move around.

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Thomas Coville was working to repair his damaged float shortly before the aft section ripped away. Photo: Martin Keruzoré

“You have to just learn how to accept the noise and how to make it something normal. It’s like the speed – we have already pushed until we accept the speed going from 30 knots to 40. Now 40 knots is just normal,” commented Coville.

But in these boats, danger can present itself in the most extraordinary ways. In the South Atlantic, Sodebo hit what Coville believes was a whale. The impact was strong enough to break off the starboard rudder, and caused so much damage that the aft section of the starboard float filled with water and later also broke away.

Although the boat was able to continue sailing, even foiling, with the truncated float, Coville revealed in Cape Town that it could have been disastrous: “A few hours before, I was inside trying to seal it, and I could have left with the piece that broke away, so I was lucky on that one.”

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Photo: Martin Keruzoré

Contest of machines

Up close, the Ultimes are surprisingly agricultural. Everything is on such a giant scale that it looks like some piece of industrial machinery. The constant modifications are often visible through patched sections – paint and filler are heavy, and so used sparingly.

On Coville’s Sodebo, to achieve an aerodynamically efficient end-plating on the mainsail, the underside of the boom is swathed in black tarpaulin-like panels. The overall effect is curiously Heath Robinson. The Ultimate Class 32/23 box rule is relatively unrestricted, and within its rough dimensions, a maximum of 32m long, 23m wide (104/75ft), the teams have adopted different design solutions. Each boat is also at a different stage of development.

Sodebo does not yet have a T-foil central daggerboard, nor elevator flaps on her rudders (factors that Coville says should give the boat a further 25% performance gain). Meanwhile Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has T-foils on both the central daggerboard and rudder, and huge transom hung rudders, with flaps on the trailing edges, housed in giant protective casings.

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The Ultime box rule specifies maximum dimensions of 32m LOA and 23m beam

But beneath the roughly faired surfaces the Ultimes are riddled with technology. The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has over 500 load sensors on board, creating terabytes of data. In this race shore teams are allowed to monitor and process this data – and discuss it with the sailors.

“We set up a whole alarm system back at the base, and I will also receive messages on my phone, saying the boat is overbearing on that sensor. So I can wake up and tell [the crew], if they haven’t seen it, to be careful,” explained Gitana team project manager, Sébastien Simon.

“Our aim is to prevent the problems. Sometimes they’ll have the feeling that the boat is just slamming and they’ll maybe slow down, and actually if it’s OK for them physically, they can go faster. Or sometimes if the alarms are going on all the time – obviously I have some margins on those alarms, and I’ll be telling them, OK you can go a little bit more that way.”

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Maxi Edmond de Rothschild captured by drone mid-Atlantic. Photo: Alexis Courcoux/Brest Atlantiques

During the Brest Atlantiques the skippers are also allowed to use weather routing, and Simon will liaise with team weather guru Marcel von Triest throughout the race as they decide how much stress to put the boat under. Surprisingly, there is no absolute rule of whether the skipper’s intuition or the inarguable neon numbers on the display take precedent. “I have no idea. Maybe it’s 50:50?” pondered Gabart.

“For sure we have a lot of numbers, and we know what is the good and safe configuration with the wind speed and angle. But when you are right on the peak this is the moment where the feeling is more important than the numbers,” explained Cammas. Technical monitoring, weather routing and sailing double-handed means the Ultimes can be sailed to a very high percentage of their potential performance.

“It’s not like a solo race because we can helm a lot, this is good because we can really push the boat,” said Cammas. “The gain you make [by helming] depends on conditions, but sometimes you gain 5%, and if your speed is around 40 that’s a lot. VMG downwind at 20-25 knot wind speeds, for example, is the place where it’s really important to steer.”

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Cammas and Caudrelier are old friends, now sailing together on Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

Helming by hand to maintain maximised flight time is key. “We will be flying more than 50% of the time,” commented Gabart pre-start. “We – certainly Gitana and Macif – will be the sailors that have spent the most time flying, ever. The sailors in the America’s Cup that sail maybe 100 or 200 times before the Cup, they fly for just a few minutes a day. We will be the sailors that have the best, longest foiling experience.”

What lies beneath

However, while sensors can monitor inside the boats, and weather routers work to interpret the skies ahead, nobody can see what is in the water in front of a trimaran hurtling along at 35 knots, least of all the skippers.

The Ultimes are trialling solutions. Macif has masthead and infrared cameras which connect to an ‘Oscar’ collision avoidance system. Sodebo has heat-sensing cameras, designed to detect a mass at a different temperature to the water: colder for ice, warmer for sea mammals. But the speeds are too great and an ‘Ovni’ – unidentified underwater object – too small or too fast to detect.

The start of the Brest Atlantiques saw the leading Ultimes averaging over 30 knots and hitting peak speeds in the 40s over the first couple of days. Macif took an early lead, ahead of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. “Macif are being really aggressive. We’ve managed to keep pace with them, but we’re stalling, we don’t want to break anything. This is the first time I’ve been trying to go slower on a boat,” commented Caudrelier at the time.

After the first key gybe south, Macif and Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had begun to pull away from Sodebo and Actual Leader and were trading places for the lead in what Cammas called “a beautiful chess game in the Atlantic.”

But the game of strategy rapidly became a contact sport. First, Macif collided with an unidentified foreign object (UFO) as they entered the Doldrums, damaging the central rudder. Then Cammas and Caudrelier suffered daggerboard damage, probably from a collision.

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Having a media crew has allowed for video footage of life onboard at 35-40 knots. Photo: Martin Keruzoré

Both boats pulled into South America to make F1-style pitstops (allowed under the race rules without penalty), where they were joined by their shore crew. The Macif team arrived with some spectacular luggage: an entire central rudder, thanks to the Banque Populaire team.

The repaired Ultimes then restarted, Maxi Edmond de Rothschild chasing new leader Sodebo, which had a 200-mile advantage. But Sodebo made a full U-turn, heading back towards Brazil. About to be caught on the front edge of a depression tracking south-east, Coville and Nélias bailed out to sail a great circle, and the race restarted with all four Ultimes within 100 miles.

Coville explained: “We had no choice but to set off on this southern route which was trying to pass under [a] big depression. Jean-Luc told me: we’re not going as fast as expected, the depression is catching up with us and we’re going to find ourselves stuck upwind in 45-50 knots, so it was with a heavy heart that we decided to turn around.

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The looping course

“I was really disappointed, because if we had managed to get through this depression, we would have found ourselves with a very comfortable lead, being one weather system ahead of the others. It’s hard to accept losing so much ground.”

Skirting that same frontal system the skippers fought extreme sea states as they headed into the South Atlantic. “These are the worst conditions since the start and not far from the worst I have ever encountered on a multihull,” said Yves Le Blevec on Actual Leader.

“With each wave, it feels like the boat is going to smash; this is not fun. We have about 30 knots of wind, but what’s hard is that we have the waves face-on and the sea is completely crossed and we are being thrown about which means we have to hold on at all times.”

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François Gabart, skipper of Macif

“It’s a pity, because I imagined this Rio to Cape Town to be full-on flat-out speeds on flat seas, I’ve been dreaming about it for the last few months,” mused François Gabart. “Unfortunately, it won’t be like that this time. We will have to come back.”

As the boats gybed east, Sodebo became the next to suffer a major UFO collision, ripping off their starboard rudder, and later the aft 5m of starboard hull. As they arrived in Cape Town it transpired that the crash had also damaged the starboard foil. Their race was ended.

Lucky man

With three of the four teams having to pull into port to make repairs, is the Brest Atlantiques a true race or an elaborate sea trial? In many ways it is both. The Ultimes are still very raw, and early in their development curve; they still need nursing round. But the skippers believe they have the potential to change the sport radically.

“We’re trying to imagine what’s going to be our world tomorrow, what’s going to be the offshore racing of tomorrow, and for sure the planet is going to be our playing field,” explained Coville. “I don’t know if we are right or wrong, but we’re trying one way and I’m very enthusiastic to be part of this history.

“In two years we’re going to have six boats, nearly the same numbers as the last Volvo Ocean Race, but trimarans that are 32m long, 23m wide and 35m high! If you remember how we started on the Vendée Globe 25 years ago and now the success of it today, and I think we are pushing the limits even further.”

The rewards are worth it. “For sure these big boats are the most impressive and incredible boats in the world, but they are very fragile,” agreed Coville. “This is the price you have to pay. You have to accept that point if you want to be one of the luckiest sailors in the world.”

First published in the January 2020 edition of Yachting World.

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Ester: The classic Swedish racing yacht that came back from the dead (18 Feb 2020, 9:08 am)

Ester is a revolutionary Swedish racing yacht that was built in 1901, sank in the 1930s, and raised in 2015. In 2019 she completed a four-year rebuild to race again

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The phrase ‘ahead of its time’ is over-used, but in the case of Ester, a remarkable 50ft racing yacht built in 1901, it couldn’t be more apt. For a yacht that was drawn 120 years ago by Swedish designer Gunmar Mellgren, Ester bears a striking resemblance to an IACC yacht, with that flying bow and full-length toerail, while below the water she had a modern fin keel and spade rudder.

The similarities are not just aesthetic; Ester was built with the same obsessive focus on weight reduction as any modern America’s Cup boat – albeit out of oak, mahogany and steel – and a similar disregard for cost. Her original build cost 15,000 Krona – over half a million pounds today.

Ester was built to win the Tivoli Cup, a sailing competition between Sweden and Finland held at Sandhamn, in the Swedish archipelago. Bo Eriksson who, together with Per Hellgren, found and rescued the yacht, explains: “Competition between Finland and Sweden – nowadays it’s in ice hockey – but it’s always life or death! It was a big thing here. Ester was built to win one race, and they spent a lot of money – it was very, very expensive at that time.”

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The rivets used are hollow and were manually drilled out. Some 17kg of metal was saved by drilling holes in rivets and screws

Ester won the 1901 Tivoli Cup, as well as pretty much everything else she entered that decade. Even by the later 1930s, having been resold and modified several times, she was still highly competitive. But one day she sank, and a piece of yachting history was presumed lost forever.

Bo Eriksson, a classic yacht aficionado, read about the legend of Ester and developed a fascination with the yacht, even hand-building a small model from drawings and photographs. “We were thinking of building a replica, but that was just a dream. The boat was for sure gone, it wasn’t in my head that we would find it,” he recalls.

However, in a bizarre twist of fate, a fisherman told him of a yacht which had caught fire and sunk outside Örnsköldsvik, in north-west Sweden, in the 1930s. Eriksson realised it could be Ester – and it was less than 2km from the front of his own house. After several years and diving explorations, the wreck was located. Ester had settled upright on the mud, rig in place, in nearly 50m of water.

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Raising the yacht was no small task; specialist divers were deployed, and the water was so murky that her exact location was only realised when one diver hit his head on her overhanging bow, having felt his way along the seabed in search of the yacht. Compressed air had to be blown into the mud to free the keel and hull.

Pushing boundaries

Ester’s survival is remarkable, as she captures a moment in yachting history when the very best designs were reaching far ahead of the materials and technology available at the time. Ester featured radical build techniques. She was built two years before the Wright brothers made their first flight, but is constructed using hollow rivets on a metal frame for weight reduction, a technique adopted by the aeroplane industry. She displaces just 3.5 tonnes, of which 1.5 tonnes is in the keel.

“She is one of a kind,” explains Eriksson. “There were other designers designing this kind of boat, but they existed for quite a short period, only up to about 1905. They were ruled out because they became so fragile, kind of like the America’s Cup today, the yachts were going in the wrong direction so they changed the rules. And they were so lightly built so they didn’t last.”

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Her gaff rig was restored to its original height after being shortened in the 1930s. The new mast was designed by Juliane Hempel with measurments taken from the original

That Ester did survive is testament to what Eriksson describes as the ‘genius’ of her designer Gunmar Mellgren, and the craftsmanship and attention to detail applied during her build. “Every detail is on purpose,” he explains. “And all together small things, tiny deck details and reinforcements, if you take them out separately each part is not so strong but together as a composite it’s very strong.”

Ester was raised in good shape. The late naval architect and yachting historian Theo Rye, who did some early design work on the project, measured her after she was lifted and was astonished to find that there was less than 7mm difference between port and starboard sides after nearly 75 years at the bottom of sea.

This is even more extraordinary considering that when Ester was originally launched, a reporter who went to see her was surprised that her lines remained true just three weeks after launching, so lightly built were similar yachts of the time.

The salinity of the Baltic Sea may have helped preserve the wood. Nevertheless, as she was raised and the wood began to dry, millimetres of planking began to peel away. Ester was going to need a complete rebuild.

Cold hands

The boat was carefully set up in Eriksson’s yard. In order to prevent the timbers drying out too quickly, she was placed in a shed with a bare earth floor to maintain humidity levels that would suit the yacht – but in freezing Arctic temperatures that made the restoration project even tougher for the boatbuilders.

The boat was rebuilt, piece-by-piece. The original steel keel fin was kept, but very little else. “The boat is composite built with a mild steel frame, but the frames were totally corroded away, so we made new templates and new frames and put them into the whole hull, bolted them in with the planking,” Eriksson explains.

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Steel frames, knees, and cross-bracing below decks combine with steamed oak framing

“Then we made new deck beams and put them together with the new steel frames. We were cross-bracing the whole thing to stabilise the hull. Then we took the keel out, put a new keel plank in, and then we started to change the hull, plank by the plank.”

Materials were kept authentic wherever possible – stainless steel was used to upgrade the mild steel of the day, and the planking is glued together more effectively than she was. “Otherwise it’s exactly the same: mahogany and oak, and Swedish pine, and spruce or pine for the rigging,” recalls Eriksson.

“The planking is all the same dimensions, she has only seven planks per side, the garboards are 600mm wide, and it’s a single scarf joint between the planks each side. We had some fantastic 12m long mahogany planks, so that’s made a small difference. We had a better source of materials, so there was more scarfing in the original hulls than there is today.”

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The original bronze rudderpost was restored for the tiller fitting

Other elements have been kept as the original, but are strikingly modern. “When I looked at the old rigging, I was surprised it was so simple, with wire loops around. It looked so old fashioned, almost like a fishing boat,” says Eriksson.

“But on second thoughts I was thinking this is absolutely genius, it’s like a modern racing boat – they have Kevlar loops or Dyneema loops on the rigging, and it’s exactly what they were doing in 1901. If you have a metal fitting on the mast it’s a breaking point on the mast. If you have a wire loop around it’s much softer, safer and lighter.”

Racing again

Four years after she was raised from the mud, Ester was relaunched in time for Monaco Classic Week in 2019, also competing at Les Voiles de St Tropez, where sailing her proved worth the two-decade wait for Eriksson.

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Ester racing once again at St Tropez, where she won on the opening day

“The boom is only 50cm above the deck, so sailing her is quite physical. You have to be on your [toes] the whole time, and diving under the boom when you’re tacking and gybing. So after five or six hours you’re quite exhausted. But at the moment it’s like seeing a Ferrari in first gear. It will take years to find the full potential of the boat.

“For the first season we’ve put on a minimum of sails because we didn’t know how she would behave, so we were under-canvassed. But on a couple of days when we had wind that suited our set up we were really flying. She’s very stiff. And as soon as you come off the wind, she’s like a hot knife in butter: she’s off.”

Specification

LOA: 15.38m (50ft 4in)
Beam: 3.08m (10ft 1in)
Draught: 1.75m (5ft 9in)
Displacement: 3.8 tonnes
Sail area: 110m2 (1,184ft2)
Built: 1901 (relaunched 2019)
Design: Gunmar Mellgren
Rebuild: Bo Eriksson

First published in the February 2020 edition of Yachting World.

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Solo overboard: An extract from Miles Hordern’s Sailing The Pacific (17 Feb 2020, 8:33 am)

Single-handed sailor Miles Hordern meets a storm in the Pacific and recounts the visceral shock of being swept overboard

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Miles Hordern sailed his 28ft Twister across the Southern Ocean from New Zealand to Chile

Back in the early 1990s, a young man called Miles Hordern sailed his 28ft Kim Holman-designed Twister single-handed from the UK to New Zealand. He lived aboard in Auckland for the first winter before moving ashore and becoming progressively divorced from the sea.

After five years, however, the call of the Pacific could no longer be denied and he set himself a voyage around the current system of the world’s greatest ocean. Following the streams, he sailed the Twister across the Southern Ocean to Chile, cruised the archipelagos, then headed for Easter Island before following the classic South Seas route back to New Zealand.

His book, Sailing the Pacific contains a good deal of historical commentary, some profound general observations on life at sea and is so beautifully written that, unlike many voyage accounts, it is a genuine page-turner. We join him in the trade-wind belt on the early part of the return passage a few days out from Juan Fernandez, when a fair weather idyll takes a sudden, nasty turn.

From Sailing The Pacific by Miles Hordern

On deck the trade was fresh, between 20 and 25 knots, warm and woolly; in these latitudes the wind is a light angora that surrounds your whole body, tugging in the direction of the flow. I ran between 140 and 150 miles a day, and was sure it could get no better than this. At 27°S I altered course and sailed due west for Easter Island, some thousand miles beyond the horizon.

Over those days the sea took on a quality I hadn’t expected, measuring out the miles as if progress was a certainty. The swells were a metre high, sometimes a metre-and-a-half, perfectly suited to a boat of this length. As each one passed around the keel I felt my home perform a cycle of predictable motion, lifting at the stern, dipping to leeward, always stiff and reasoned.

After breakfast each morning I faced the prospect of a whole day of easy progress. In the cabin I had time on my hands, surrounded by an ocean world of wind and seas that appeared almost mechanical.

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Sailing the Pacific by Miles Hordern is published by St Martin’s Press

I cut my hair and trimmed my beard. I sat with charts and books of the islands ahead and dreamed that this might be my best passage. It was light and warm: this alone was sufficient to guarantee contentment. I drank lime juice from a glass placed on the gimballed cooker.

I found pleasure in simply looking at that glass. It was a heavy, round tumbler, a little taller than the width of my hand. I had never used a glass in the Southern Ocean for fear of breakages; instead, I drank everything from one stainless steel tankard. But in the trades glassware could again be part of the fabric of my life.

I looked proudly at the glass sometimes, as sunlight flashed through the airy cabin. I saw it as a trophy of the peaceful times I had won for myself. As the tradewinds settled into place over the ocean, I all too quickly became accustomed to this genteel world of sipped drinks and mahi mahi steaks poached in Chilean chardonnay. It was easy to forget how quickly it could all fall apart.

Many of the things that I remember about the passage through the tropics happened at night. Daylight can be a corrosive force on the tropical seas. It is an anomaly of the marine landscape: by day, there is often nothing to see. The sky is hard and burnt, the water a bulge of silver reflections.

When the wind is light, the heat is desperate. During the day I often hid in the shade, seldom venturing out for long. There are events hidden among the shadows and languor, of course, but they are indistinct.

Critically, in my memory, all lack a clear starting point at which any one event can be said to begin. And because most things that happen at sea are so routine and inconsequential, without a starting-point, they disappear.

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The clarity of night

At night it is different. In the night-time any event, even a binge on chocolate and booze, is bounded by sleep, and so begins at the point of waking. The night has this clarity, like a frame around each scene, which has the effect of making it seem the most eventful time at sea.

I woke one night early in the passage and knew that something was wrong. I couldn’t think, or even focus my eyes at first. On deck, there was liquid everywhere. Then I began to feel the rain, heavy pellets biting into my bare back. After that I was fully awake.

The sky was yellow; cloud was layered at different heights, tearing overhead. Sheet lightning flashed in several places around the horizon, a gold circle revealing wet, black cloud. The sea looked thick and warm, like boiling broth.

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Having made it safely to Castro on Chile’s Isla Chiloé, Hordern was later swept overboard on the return passage to New Zealand

Sound was all around, a mix of wind, waves, and rain beating on canvas. The boat was run through with energy, its roll urgent. The waves were steep and close, green water coming over the stemhead, white furrows cast to either side. The squall had struck hard.

I’d left the boat carrying full sail. Now she was over-pressed, the sails wrinkled and misshapen, straining to get free. The pole holding the genoa to windward was pinched tight, trembling when the boat surfed. The backstays were rods. The whole rig looked out of place: a paper-and-dowelling kite caught in a gale.

I hesitated. I was already beginning to feel cold, dressed only in shorts. I pulled the harness out from beneath the sprayhood. I preferred to wear it under, not over, a jacket; it was quicker to put on against bare skin.

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Hordern’s Twister tied to a wharf at Papeete

I was still cold. My jacket was also stuffed beneath the sprayhood. Now it was sodden with rain from the squall. As I pushed my hands through the wet sleeves they kept catching on the lining. I shoved harder, growing impatient. I needed to get the wind out of the sails quickly. The boat was careering downwind and I was worried it might broach. With the jacket finally on I did up the zip. The tether came up from underneath the jacket, onto the harness at my chest.

The sheet for the furling genoa was coiled in a pocket in the cockpit coaming. I pulled it out and flicked two turns off the winch, then the rope was snapped from my grip, the sail rushing forwards, spilling its wind. But the sheet fouled in the sidedeck fairlead. The sail was flogging heavily.

Unexceptional squall

I clipped onto the jackstay, then set off down the sidedeck. I don’t know exactly what happened next. I’ve climbed around the deck at night hundreds of times, sometimes without a harness. It was a bad squall, but not exceptional, the rain hard, the wind at 40 knots.

The problem was that I was carrying too much sail. Now, half-released, the genoa was crashing in the air overhead, sending tremors through the boat. One minute I was moving down the narrow sidedeck as I had so often done before. It is a tight squeeze around the sprayhood, awkward on a rolling boat. I was looking at the tangled rope in the block just ahead. Then it all changed.

The first thing I remember was a crushing blow to my chest. It felt like being broken in half. The jerk was unforgiving, spinning me round in the water like a rag doll. My body felt numb and dead. But I knew exactly what had happened: I’d fallen over the side and was being dragged through the water. The strong point on the jackstay had held. The tether was stretched like a bar over the rail, then down to the harness on my chest. I was somewhere against the boat’s quarter.

I couldn’t breathe. Water seemed to be everywhere. I’d been stunned by the initial blow, and now didn’t know up from down. I could find no window through which to break out into clear air. And for a moment there seemed little point in trying.

I had thought I would struggle and fight, keep going to the end, but actually those first moments in the water were a time of resignation and defeat, of sulking at the self-inflicted mishap. The sea was hard and unyielding: it seemed I was being dragged across gravel.

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Before his solo voyage, Miles Hordern attempted to sail a 16ft open boat from Cornwall, bound for Africa

When I lay on my front and arched my back I found I could get my head clear of the water. My right shoulder was hard against the side of the boat. At anchor in flat water, it’s just possible, when you are swimming, to reach the toerail on deck and, if you are fit, pull yourself out of the water.

But the boat was heeling downwind and this distance was increased. In the big swell I kept slamming into the side of the hull. It was slimy with weed, the underwater sections exposed as the boat heeled.

I pulled myself up on the tether and made a lunge for the rail. Nothing happened: I couldn’t lunge against the force of the water. The sea was pouring in through the cuffs of my oilskin jacket, which was ballooning out around my shoulders, dragging me back. The bottom of the jacket was pulled up around my chest by the tether attached from underneath. I could feel the jacket biting into the small of my back. I had to get it off.

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Hordern’s crewmate on the Cornwall-Africa adventure was Bill Peers, here tapering the end of a new main mast on the beach at Contisplage on the French Biscay coast following a dismasting

When I lowered my head to look for the zip, my body dived back under the water. My hands were torn from the collar. I rolled into my back and dropped my chin. This way I could breathe, and the collar opening was protected from the seas.

I found the zip with my fingers and undid the first half easily, but the bottom part of the jacket was bunched around my chest by the tether, which was now stretched hard over my shoulder. The fabric of the coat was torn all around the zip, and the zip itself was so buckled that the slider had jammed. I started trying to tear the zip open.

As I struggled, the loosened jacket came off my shoulders. I put my arms behind my back and the water did the rest, pulling the jacket down around my waist like a skirt. It was still caught round the tether. I tore at it some more, now from the bottom of the zip. The material finally parted, perhaps the zip broke. The jacket was gone in an instant. I must have lost my boxer shorts as soon as I hit the water: now I was naked in the harness.

Monumental effort

I pulled up on the tether, waited for the boat to roll back towards me, then grabbed for the toerail with my right hand. My fingers closed around the worn teak. But when I let go of the tether with my left hand to get it on the rail, the force of the water broke my grip.

I fell into the sea, and was again slammed up hard against the tether. I didn’t wait now. It was impossible to rest in the water: every second left me more tired. I pulled up on the tether again and got one hand on the rail. Just then the boat gave a long roll downwind, lifting me almost clear of the water.

Without its weight around me I was able to pull my shoulders up onto the rail, then hook my feet up one at a time. It was a horrible tangle: there’s no sidedeck here because the cockpit coaming comes almost to the edge of the deck, and as I wriggled under the lifelines the tether got caught on the stanchion. I unclipped it and slid into the cockpit.

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En route to Chile, Hordern fetched up at Beveridge Reef and was able to explore a recently wrecked fishing boat

The first thing was to get the bloody sails in. I was thankful I had this task, some urgent work to focus my racing mind. I crawled along the sidedeck, freed the tangled sheet and furled the genoa. The power had now drained from the boat’s rush downwind, the noise overhead was hushed and the motion began to ease. Lightning strikes revealed a luminous green world folding and reforming beneath driving rain. Between time it was pitch black.

In the cabin I dried myself, put on a dry jacket, and went outside again. I wondered for a time if I would need to reef the mainsail as well. I waited five minutes. Then the boom of the thunder became more distant, and the wind died away. I sat beneath the sprayhood in the cockpit and smoked a cigarette as the lightning receded to the north-west and patches of starry sky emerged to windward.

The seas were shapeless. Heavy strands of spray occasionally slopped out of the darkness. It took me a long time to warm up, though the wind was softer now and my hair began to dry. I felt empty and thought I might drift off to sleep. But I was dragged back to the present. The front of my jacket and my legs were wet and sticky. I realised that I was being sick.

First published in the December 2019 edition of Yachting World.

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The inside story of Greta Thunberg’s upwind Atlantic crossing on La Vagabonde (13 Feb 2020, 8:59 am)

To sail climate activist Greta Thunberg across the Atlantic – eastbound – aboard La Vagabonde was the voyage of a lifetime for skipper Nikki Henderson. She shares the inside story

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Photos: Elayna Carausu / Nikki Henderson

The sky flashed a blinding white light and a spark came down just a few hundred metres to port. We were going fast, and getting faster: that kind of fast where the helm becomes light, as if La Vagabonde had taken off at the top of the wave and was still flying.

The sea was ominously flat. Not that I could see it – except during those electric illuminations – and I wasn’t sure how windy it was. We had isolated the batteries and switched off power to the boat in case of an electrical strike, so the anemometer screen was blank, along with the rest of our instruments, but I judged it was blowing 40 or 45 knots.

Then the rain started. It was torrential; driving horizontally but also sliding off the sail above me, and blinding me. The light of my head torch was the only visual thing keeping the boat going in the right direction as I intermittently shone it down at my feet to where the compass was located. “Riley, let’s furl – now.” I paused for what felt like a few minutes, but was more likely a few seconds, “Like NOW, now!”

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The crew had to contend with serious North Atlantic seas… but did enjoy some fast boatspeeds

It was that feeling where the wind increases, and you know it’s stronger than you have felt all night. I could feel nature’s pressure on the back of my legs, and the wind must have been in the high 40 knots, maybe even 50. The boat was flying. Another flash came, lighting up the sky just long enough for me to see the towers of water surging up either side of us as we carved through the water.

“This is ****ing amazing! This boat flies. We must have hit 20 knots,” I screamed at Riley, as shouting was the only way he could possibly hear me. He ran forward and furled the headsail. The furling line had broken earlier that day, and we had tied it together temporarily meaning Riley could only furl by pulling the line right at the drum and tying it to the bow cleat. We both regretted not fixing that line earlier in the day.

When he came back to the cockpit the wind was already subsiding and the rain had stopped. I was on a total high, ready to increase canvas again. “Make that call earlier next time, Nik,” he said. I felt put out, and must have showed it. “Nik, my kid is down there.” I thought of baby Lenny, and Greta. It was one of the most grounding moments of my life. When I had first discussed this trip with Riley I had described it as “bigger than any of us.” Those words suddenly felt very, very real.

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How did we get here?

In the autumn of 2019, Greta Thunberg, 16, and currently the most famous teenager in the world, was in the United States, having sailed across the Atlantic on the IMOCA 60 Malizia for the UN Climate Action Summit. She planned to travel on to Chile for the 2019 meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP25.

But civil unrest in the country meant the event moved at short notice: back to Europe. Thunberg was looking for a solution that didn’t involve an aeroplane. On 1 November 2019 Thunberg sent out a tweet from Los Angeles: “As COP25 has officially been moved from Santiago to Madrid I’ll need some help… to find a way to cross the Atlantic in November.”

Thirteen days later she left Virginia, USA, on La Vagabonde. This 48ft Outremer performance cruising catamaran is a liveaboard yacht owned by Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu, creators of the La Vagabonde YouTube channel. Along with their 11-month-old son Lenny, they came to the rescue. “I hear a certain young girl needs a ride across the Atlantic,” was Whitelum’s typically laid-back offer.

Appreciating the risks associated with the North Atlantic, and their precious cargo of baby Lenny, and 2019 Time’s Person of the Year Greta Thunberg, the couple contacted professional sailors in search of someone to bolster the crew.

“Nikki, meet Greta” read the message on the group chat that was started late in the evening on Thursday 7 November. We talked and talked, and two days after that first text I met Greta for real. We arranged to meet outside Norfolk, VA airport, next to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s electric car. The Governator had lent Greta and her father, Svante, his car as a green method of transportation while on their US tour.

In my bag were three sets of foul weather gear to share around, a drysuit, a medical kit, a paper chart portfolio, a handheld GPS and minimal personal belongings. Six strangers came together, prepared a yacht for a 3,000-mile ocean passage, informed the world’s media of our plan and swiftly set sail. It felt like we were trying to prove the impossible possible.

Social experiment

Preparing for an ocean voyage is always stressful. Going to sea is always a challenge. Sailing with strangers is always a bit of a voyage into the unknown. This trip was like some epic social experiment: two Swedes, two Australians, one baby, and a Brit. Two fathers, one daughter, a mother and baby, a captain: and a skipper. A climate activist, an ex-rigger, a semi-retired actor, a team boss, social media influencers, introverts and extroverts, leaders and followers.

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Skipper Nikki and Greta, Time Person of the Year 2019

We were united by one steadfast purpose; to cross 3,000 miles of North Atlantic ocean, and one deadline; Greta was due to speak at the COP25, so we had four weeks to compete the voyage. We were motivated by more fluid incentives. Greta to continue raising awareness about the climate emergency, Svante to support and protect his daughter, Riley and Elayna to support the climate movement, experience an adventure and capture it on videos. Lenny had no choice.

As for myself? I wrote down my thoughts at the time: “It was one of those moments in life that takes you by surprise. Where you have to look inside your heart to think what is right.

“To get to know the person behind the shell, the voice that the world is listening to, is such an opportunity. To have the chance to help her on her journey is remarkable. The greatest opportunity is spiritual: I will get to know someone who will inspire me.”

Heading west to east across the North Atlantic in November on a sailboat is not a recommended place to be. Even the pharmacist in Virginia commented on it while he was helping me find ear ointment that was suitable for a baby. “Conditions this year aren’t great, you know. You make sure you check the weather now…”

He had the right idea. In the winter, statistically there is a high risk of severe depressions or tropical storms. These strong fronts can pack quite a punch in wind speeds and sea state.

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