Archive for December, 2008

Another Vendee Globe yachtsman in trouble

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Today’s news about Canadian Derek Hatfield allows me to raise a What if? in addition to those already covered in a series of our Newsletters (see below), namely:


What if one or more of your spreaders get broken?


In the case of Hatfield, a competitor in the Vendee Globe, it has meant that he is now heading to Tasmania – a distance of some 1,000 miles. As he has no fuel, he has been forced to sail the boat. The prevailing wind where he is means that he has to sail on port tack, where two spreaders were broken when the yacht was knocked down in heavy conditions at the weekend.


I understand the shrouds themselves are still intact but without the spreaders, the shrouds would be quite loose. I, for one, would be reluctant to climb up a mast that is only partially supported in order to assess the damage close up and try to make repairs.


If he’s unable to tighten the shrouds I’m sure he would use one or more halyards that he could tighten on a winch and give better support to his mast.


The scenarios we covered in our Newsletter were:

* What if the wind strengthens to storm force?

* What if the engine stops or can’t be started?

* What if the steering fails?

* What if the main halyard jams?

* What if the boat goes aground?


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Vendee rescue – valuable operation or waste of taxpayers’ money?

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

While everyone following the Vendee Globe is relieved that Yann Elies has been rescued by the captain and crew of HMAS Arunta, some people in Australia are querying why such a rescue should take place, and at taxpayers’ expense. It’s an easy question to answer. Australia, by nature of its position in the world, has responsibility for a large amount of the Southern Ocean. And it’s good that it takes that responsibility seriously.


Such a rescue operation is also so much better than any practice exercise – there’s nothing like actual experience to learn and develop skills.


Also of note is that Vendee organisers requested that two yachts divert to give moral support to the injured Yann Elies. Sam Davies, although she knew that she couldn’t reach the stricken yachtsman before HMAS Arunta, maintained her course until she was stood down by the race organisers. Marc Guillemot was standing by and watched the transfer take place: “Some highly professional work. They prepared Yann for the transfer. Still heavy swell but they carried out manoeuvre perfectly. Yann is now aboard the frigate and has a doctor taking care of him.”


All this was done to meet the obligations under International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and, for the whingers, consider how you would feel if you had carried out such an operation successfully, your morale would be sky high.


You can discover much more about safety at sea in The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship – Safety and Emergencies.

‘Frostbiting’ and Iceboating

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

A blog alerted me to the term ‘frostbiting’ – sailing in winter – and my curiosity was aroused. It’s not to be confused with iceboating, where hulls are fitted to ski-like runners and can get up to 100 mph off the wind. No, frostbiting would seem to be for people who don’t feel the cold! Boston harbour is one place where intrepid (or should that read foolish?) sailors pull on many layers to look like the Michelin man so that they can enjoy a few hours on the water. And one of the yachts that race is the Laser, on which you can expect to get wet!

Here in Sydney we’re fortunate that the temperature in the coldest month (July) only drops to an average 16.3°C /61°F. Even so, there’s always a great buzz back in the bar as competitors warm up again after a race.

Why not check out our Newsletter Archive and subscribe to our weekly Newsletter?

What a way to go!

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

This morning I read a report of the death of Don St Clair Brown on the website. Its headline was “Father of New Zealand Yachting passes on” but I prefer mine.

Don went out racing on his yacht, Anticipation, a 50 foot aluminium boat designed by Ben Lexcen, had dinner with his crew and then died in his sleep aged 94!

Climate change for sailors

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

I’ve been sailing since I was about 12 and I’ve been watching the weather closely for nearly as long. It seems to me that in the last few months the weather has changed from a 6-7 day cycle to a 4-5 day one. What do I mean by this? The cold fronts are coming through far more often these days. Also, even though the time between fronts is shorter, the heat beforehand and wind strengths experienced are greater.

Prudent sailors heading to Hobart on Boxing Day always expect to face a southerly change but this year it would seem to be almost guaranteed. Let’s hope all are well-prepared.

To learn more about the weather as it affects sailors, why not order a copy of Weathercraft? It’s a multimedia CD with animations and a video on watching a storm front approach. Here are full details of our complete product, The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship.

What is a Parasailor?

Monday, December 8th, 2008

A. A paralympic sailor.
B. A yacht with two identical masts and sails.
C. A spinnaker with a vent system that provides greater stability than a traditional spinnaker.

The video has given the answer away – it’s C.

The Parasailor, a German innovation, was written up in Yachting World in “The Best Way to Sail the ARC”:
“It is a spinnaker with a vent and is said to be better mannered than a traditional version and can be set with or without a pole.
“With the vent, it will tend to allow the wind to blow through, so gusts will have less of an effect and it will provide added stability.”

Time will tell whether the idea takes on. What do you think of it?

* * * * * *
In The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship – Boat Handling 1 – we show how to use twin headsails to keep the boat stable when running.

Green Dragon brings new meaning to the loose-footed mainsail

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

This morning I found this video of Green Dragon, just after her boom broke. It shows one gutsy crewman lifted up and out to detach the broken end from the clew of the mainsail.

The skipper made the decision not to call in at Diego Garcia to fit a replacement boom nor to try to repair the boom on board with whatever materials were available. He knew that the latter would detract from the crew making the boat go fast. Third through the gate on the way to Cochin, Green Dragon was overtaken sailing upwind and finished only seventh, beating only Team Russia.

Sail World has more details and a good photo of the boat showing the bridle that the crew rigged to control their loose-footed mainsail.

We describe how to handle a wide range of Nautical Emergencies in The Boating Bible Manual of Seamanship. With good seamanship, all sorts of emergency can be managed competently but, better still, some can be avoided.

Can you believe the weather forecast?

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Some years ago Annie and I, together with Nikki Reynolds (no relation) were delivering Uptown Girl from Coffs Harbour to Sydney.

As skipper/navigator, I had been listening to weather forecasts and keeping skeds all the way. On the Saturday morning a southerly was forecast for Sunday afternoon. It was mentioned again in the forecast on Sunday morning. However, the forecast at 4 o’clock on a perfect afternoon for sailing didn’t mention it at all. So we assumed that the change must have been held south of our weather forecast region.

Imagine our surprise when a southerly hit us, after dark, just as we were entering Sydney Harbour. By that time the visual warnings of a change – daggy clouds – had vanished into the night. Stars were difficult to see over the loom of the city lights.

The wind was so strong that we had to shelter behind an island to take the main down and even then it was hard work for two fit women in their 30s.

Luckily we knew we had a safe berth to moor in.

Our Weathercraft CD is a great way to learn about the weather as it affects the sailor.