Posts Tagged ‘spreaders’

An uncomfortable feeling

Monday, March 16th, 2009

When I wrote the other day about being woken by a boat’s preparations to tack, seemingly against my instructions to the crew, it reminded me of waking on a yacht moments before it was dismasted.

The yacht was Uptown Girl, the race was the 1988 Sydney-Hobart and we were entering Bass Strait in 40 knot winds and confused, although not very big, seas.

At first I thought it might have been a change in motion that alerted both me and the skipper, Rod Winton, that something was very wrong on board. Moments later, as we hurried up on deck, we found that the mast had gone over the side.

Interestingly it had broken into sections 25 cm* above each set of spreaders. The breaks above the spreaders did not crimp in the way that is usual when a tube fails, although the bottom break did. The other breaks were clean, as if the section had been cut through. There was no sign of any crimping.

Months later computer modelling showed that the failure was caused by harmonics and what had disturbed us were inaudible but subconsciously discernible sound waves!

I’m glad to say that more often than not I’m awakened by the whistle of the kettle, signalling the change of watch.

Have you ever been on a yacht when it was dismasted?
Please share your experiences by commenting on this post.

* 10 inches

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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