The tide had turned off Portland Bill, the sea state was smoothing out and we were beating into a fresh southwesterly breeze aboard Phorty. We’d climbed through the pack and were now close to the top five.
Then there was a loud bang as a fitting at the base of the forestay gave way. The mast floated down, landing to leeward behind the boat. It was a second before our brains could process what had happened. The windward shroud bent a stanchion double as it came down and squashed two crew hiking out, who quickly extricated themselves.
Because Class 40 masts are deck-stepped and our mast fell backwards, the heel had simply kicked up above the foredeck. The rest of the rig was trailing behind the boat and we decided it was recoverable. I called the Coastguard notifying them of our position and problem, but saying we did not currently require assistance.
By attaching spare sheets to the mast winches then through a snatch block on Phorty’s bow we slowly started to drag the rig forward along the deck, cutting any rigging that prevented progress. Getting the mast on board went relatively smoothly. When the spreaders approached the coachroof we bounced them over, using the rhythm of the waves.
The mainsail proved a bigger problem as the full length battens were impossible to lift once underwater. One of the crew donned a drysuit and went over on a safety line to cut the main away.
The whole operation took around an hour-and-a-half. Once the mast was secure we made a final thorough check for lines over the side and then motored to Portland for a compensatory beer.