Been There, Done ThaT, LoveD IT

On­dine

Yachts International - - Engage - —Ge­orge P., Fort Laud­erdale

As an ex­pe­ri­enced off­shore sailor and racer, your story “Force 10” [May/June] took me back. The Force 10 blow I remember best was one that hit us in the south­ern In­dian Ocean while de­liv­er­ing the 73-foot, then state-of-the-art maxi to Syd­ney for the 1968 Ho­bart Race. It was im­pos­si­ble to know ex­actly how strong the wind was be­cause we had been dis­masted 2,000 miles out of Cape Town, los­ing all in­stru­men­ta­tion, but all the de­scrip­tive el­e­ments of Beau­fort Scale Force 10 were met or ex­ceeded.

Our 97-foot main mast had be­come a 30-foot stump, which we had la­bo­ri­ously jury-rigged us­ing the spin­naker pole as a gaff and many hours of hand­sewing the re­mains of a torn and tat­tered main­sail into a rig ca­pa­ble of driv­ing us at an ac­cept­able speed in de­cent winds. In the process we had tech­ni­cally con­verted the boat from a ketch to a schooner rig—not a clas­si­cally beau­ti­ful schooner by any means, but a rig that would per­form well down­wind.

On a tight sched­ule to ar­rive in Syd­ney in time to re-rig, we headed south into the South­ern Ocean with all haste, hop­ing to find strong westerly winds. We did! The big one hit us after sev­eral days of in­creas­ing winds and grow­ing swells. It felt like the ocean had made a con­scious de­ci­sion to as­sert its power as it be­gan to de­liver an un­end­ing suc­ces­sion of im­prob­a­bly enor­mous swells high enough to shield us from the wind at the bot­tom of each one, but ex­pos­ing us to the wind’s full fury at the top. It was a roller coaster ride far be­yond the scope of any Dis­ney at­trac­tion. It was scary. It was awe­some. It was beau­ti­ful. All three, at the same time.

We were a crew of seven ex­pe­ri­enced young sailors who thought we knew what we were do­ing, and an older pro­fes­sional cap­tain who re­ally did. Sven in­verted his ever-present pipe to pre­vent it from get­ting flooded and is­sued one or­der: “Keep look­ing back and keep the f***g tran­som at right an­gles to the swell.” We did, and for three days, watch-on, watch-off, en­joyed the sleigh ride of a life­time.

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