Yachting Monthly - - CONTENTS -

Are we in a May­day sit­u­a­tion or not?

QMike and his crew of five have been sail­ing overnight from Mil­ford Haven to­wards Kin­sale on the south coast of Ire­land. The in­ten­tion is to en­ter the Re­gatta with Mike’s J/111, a fast yacht well suited for rac­ing, 11m long with a draught of 2.2m. The crew is keen and ex­pe­ri­enced though quite tired after the 120-mile trip.

Mike, trust­ing his crew as he rested, has failed to no­tice the lights dim­ming as the bat­ter­ies try to cope with plot­ters and other in­stru­ments, along with bunk lights and no real at­tempt to con­serve power. They are off Kin­sale, broad reach­ing on port tack in 20 knots of wind from the SSE. It’s low wa­ter and the ti­dal stream is weak at sea out­side the har­bour. It’s com­ing up to the time to gybe on to star­board and sail in. In the dawn light, one of the crew no­tices that the star­board cap shroud is part­ing from the mast.

A gybe would al­most cer­tainly bring the mast down.

Mike im­me­di­ately drops the sails and se­cures the main and spin­naker hal­yards at deck level on the star­board side to sup­port the mast. It seems rea­son­ably se­cure but prob­a­bly wouldn’t sup­port even a storm jib. Time to start the en­gine. He turns the key; noth­ing hap­pens. There’s no bat­tery power. Some­how, the en­gine bat­tery is as flat as the do­mes­tic bat­ter­ies. Sud­denly, a sim­ple trip has turned into a tricky one. The VHF isn’t work­ing and his mo­bile phone has no sig­nal. The crew thinks it’s time to use the EPIRB. Is it?

AThey are not in grave and im­mi­nent dan­ger, so the EPIRB can wait. While they have been sort­ing out the jury shroud, the yacht will have car­ried on sail­ing un­der bare poles. A light, fast yacht is sur­pris­ingly ma­noeu­vrable with just the windage on the mast. Ob­vi­ously it will only sail down­wind but it is pos­si­ble to steer on a broad reach, cer­tainly well enough to en­ter Kin­sale with the tide and get to within strik­ing dis­tance of the ma­rina where they can an­chor and phone or sig­nal for help. Progress will be quite slow but not un­safe.

An­chor­ing out­side the har­bour is a very un­com­fort­able op­tion and con­tin­u­ing to sail some­where else on port tack with a part­ing star­board shroud is ask­ing for trou­ble. For the time be­ing, this is not a May­day sit­u­a­tion, but Mike should be pre­pared just in case.

The en­trance to Kin­sale is fairly sim­ple, but can Mike make it in th­ese cir­cum­stances? Be­fore he calls for help, what other op­tions are open to Mike?

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