SAIL - - Under Sail -

Given the pro­found ef­fect the knockdown has had on the Fig­ure 8 Project, I’ve thought hard over the in­ter­ven­ing months about what I could have done dif­fer­ently. Here are some of my con­clu­sions: 1. Boat­speed: Early in the gale, I put Mo un­der storm jib alone. This sail is a mere 175ft2, and though I noted how it slowed our progress, I was ea­ger for a con­ser­va­tive sailplan that I could wear through­out the blow. Much storm-man­age­ment lit­er­a­ture is about keep­ing boat­speed down so as to pre­vent loss of con­trol and pre­vent pitch-polling in heavy seas. How­ever, in this case, I think lack of sail may have meant Mo didn’t have the “re­serve speed” nec­es­sary to move through the troughs with­out stalling. With­out steer­age in the troughs, the boat would

nat­u­rally be­gin to round up as she climbed the next peak. Given the big seas and the big break, the re­sult was dis­as­trous. 2. Read­ing the right in­di­ca­tors: “It’s not the wind we worry about, it’s the seas” is an adage I failed to heed in two ways. First, when I aimed Mo for an area of the low where mean winds were fore­cast to be 35 knots, I failed to con­sider the wave height and in­ten­sity. The low had been rag­ing for sev­eral days and would kick out a swell not nec­es­sar­ily de­fined by the wind we were go­ing to get. Sec­ond, as we were bashed around, I con­tin­ued to base my de­ci­sions on the wind ve­loc­i­ties. “We’ve seen so much worse,” I thought to my­self, so I let the boat sail on. I should have de­ployed the drogue as soon as I re­al­ized I didn’t have a work­able ap­proach to the seas (i.e. af­ter the first knock). This would have stopped the boat with her stern to the worst of it and may have pre­vented the dam­ag­ing knock­downs. 3. Emer­gency gear: Storm win­dows were on the pre-de­par­ture to-do list. But the list was very, very long, and I ul­ti­mately set out un­der out un­der the Golden Gate Bridge with­out them. I am Mo’s fourth owner, and each owner has taken the boat into harm’s way. She has been three times around Cape Horn, twice to the Antarc­tic penin­sula and twice through the North­west Pas­sage. No pre­vi­ous owner has bro­ken a win­dow. I there­fore as­sumed that nei­ther would I. A sound enough ra­tio­nale—just wrong. 4. Emer­gency gear main­te­nance: I had lav­ished un­told care upon the bri­dle of the Jor­dan Se­ries Drogue. The drogue came with the boat and had seen plenty of sea time, but the main drogue line and para­chutes all looked clean and ready for ac­tion. That said, the cover on the bri­dle was worn, and the eye splices at each end were rock hard and their metal eyes, rusty. I there­fore patched the worn cover and re­placed the splices and thought it a job well done. As you can imag­ine, when the splice on the main drogue line failed, I was sur­prised. In hind­sight, though, th­ese splices were as old as those on the bri­dle, and I should have ex­er­cised as much cau­tion with them.

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