After nearly three days on port tack I feel I need one leg shorter than the other


After nearly three days on port tack I feel I need one leg shorter than
the other as we close-reach at an angle of 16 degrees to the horizontal.

Got a useful 300-mile day in yesterday although as you can see from the picture of our plotter we are heading way east of our rhumb line as the wind is out of the north-north-west, currently at about 18 knots true. We are on the south-western flank of a high and need to get across to the top of it for the north-easterlies and easterlies which should give us a good angle to Rio, still 1,420 miles away. Our position at 1,000 on Valentine’s Day (thank God for e-mail) is 45deg 15min S 32deg 31min W, the water temp is up to 10 degrees and the stiletto cold has vanished from the wind.

The breeze has been extraordinarily steady in direction and strength for the past 24 hours and the sea state comparatively flat, although last night when I was on watch at 0300 the true wind dropped away under a blanket of stars and boat speed fell to 8kt. It prompted a call to shake the reef out of the mizzen, one out of the main and unfurl the yankee to just a single reef. A full staysail could also be set.

Twenty years ago aboard the old two-tonner Nick Nack 11, which I used to race, changing to a big headsail on that 46-footer would take at least six crew and you’d be knackered and wet after a 20-minute struggle on a heaving foredeck. Then you’d have to pack the damn thing.

Last night three of us wandered forward under floodlights, remote control box in hand. Georgina, our bosun, pushed a few buttons and hey presto all four sails had been ‘changed’! Well, it’s not quite that simple and one has to be very careful indeed with lazyjacks, tricing lines and the other controls of a modern rig. Georgina, had it all done and dusted in 15 minutes.

Just beforehand, in time honoured fashion, skipper Andre said he’d finish his cup of tea before making the decision to increase sail and he only decided to go for it when he was sure the breeze wasn’t going to come back. Sod’s law of course applied itself even though he’d paid homage to the conditions. As soon as we were back in the cockpit the wind piped up again!

Adele was right on the edge of her sensible cruising limit but the breeze eventually settled down at around 17kts true and we were OK, back up at 12 to 13kts boat speed and smoking. It’s a fine line one treads with a yacht with so much sail area, but the ketch rig is infinitely adjustable and the relatively small individual sails are OK to ‘handle’. We have all been wondering how Boreas the new Andre Hoek-designed sloop version of Adele will manage (see Yachting World Supersail, March issue). Her mast is 1.5m taller than Adele’s but the really staggering statistic is that her boom will be 5m longer at 23m or 75ft! And with her in-boom furling it will weigh 3.5 tons. Keeping it out of the water in a seaway and controlling it with preventer, vang and sheet will be a major task, something that has not been a problem aboard Adele.

Moving around Adele in these conditions is interesting. We are heeling at between 13 degrees and 16 degrees and we all look as though we have one leg shorter than the other. Those wonderful ‘sticky’ place mats keep our plates on the table and custom mug holders have really come into their own. There are plenty of hand holds but wearing woolly gloves (earlier down south) can be dangerous because they simply slip off the high gloss finish. Nigel Ingram was interesting when he explained that rig loads and engineering are calculated for a heel angle of 20 or 25 degrees compared to the traditional figure of 30 degrees. For Adele the figure is 25. Getting to that angle is unimaginable!

There’s 10/10 cloud cover at moment so shorts and T shirts still lie
dormant. Maybe tomorrow?