After a starlit and unfortunately windless night, Saturday dawns with a glassy calm and temperatures (water and air) soaring onto the high 20s


After a starlit and unfortunately windless night, Saturday dawns with a
glassy calm and temperatures (water and air) soaring onto the high 20s.
It’s blissful on deck and there’s time to check things out onboard Adele – and to discuss a nasty incident deep in the south Pacific

After an early breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs I follow mate Mark Thirkettle onto a hot foredeck where he has a torch stuck in the inspection panel of the Rondal furling gear.

On Adele’s trip across the Pacific, towards New Zealand, they had problems with the furled yankee ‘letting go’. It appeared that when the hydraulic brake for the gear released, the pawl which should engage the gearing to prevent the foil from turning any further, either wasn’t engaging properly or was damaging the teeth in the gearing.

Rondal sorted it all out in New Zealand but yesterday there was a bit of a bang and something moved on the yankee furler. With 500 square metres of sail up there and enormous torque on the furler, Mark and skipper Andre were anxious to know what was going on. MCM’s Nigel Ingram took a look too, and they were happy that nothing serious seemed to have happened although some of the teeth looked worn. But the fact that the unit had gone half a turn or so, seemingly of its own accord, indicates that all is not completely well and Rondal will no doubt be asked to investigate further.

This prompted chat about another equipment problem which bedeviled Adele on the crossing to Ushuaia in Argentina from Auckland, before Christmas. They were about two thirds of the way into the crossing. There was a dodgy forecast, night was approaching and the crew decided to douse the mizzen which was reefed.

This sail is about the same size as the main on a 110-footer, so sizeable. Trouble is they couldn’t get it down. One of the cars appeared to be stuck about two thirds of the way up the track. They tried winching it down but the car wouldn’t budge and loading up to the winch to its 5 tons capacity could have done really serious damage.

Only one solution – someone would have to go up the rig. With a big sea running this was no mean feat. The first attempt to encourage it to move with some gentle coaxing with a hammer didn’t work, so it was decided that the only way to get it down was to cut it free from the headboard and from all the cars above the culprit. Up went bosun Georgina Swan armed with a knife and tethered to a heavily tensioned halyard that would stop her being flung around like a rag doll.

It took her 10 minutes to cut away the headboard, the tapes connecting the cars to the sail and to unbolt one of the battens from its car. The sail was flogging all over the place and Georgina came down with a big lump on her head and eventually a real shiner. But the sail was on deck.

One small machine screw had caused the problem. It was one of four securing the black Delrin slider which is set inside the car itself providing the smooth running surface against the metal track. One screw had worked free and jammed solid against the track. That’s all it took. With apparently no Loctite or other means of guaranteeing it would remain in place, it had worked free.

With the mizzen unserviceable, skipper Andre wisely decided that the main should stay on deck too. The thought of not being able to get that down did not bear thinking about so they completed the passage under headsail! Later checks showed that some of the other screws were beginning to work loose.

In Ushuaia it took three days to get the sails off, mark every car, drill out all 250-odd machine screws using a pillar drill in the engine room, then insert Torlon plugs, glued in with Scotchweld. Harken had worked on the problem as soon as it had come to their attention, tested the new system back in their HQ in the USA then sent a complete kit of parts to Ushuaia so that the crew could get to work over Christmas (nice one!) before setting off for Antarctica.

North Denmark sent a man down to attach ready-made headboard taping and reinforcements for the mizzen so that it could be re-united with its cars. Then on a very quiet morning indeed, while Adele was at anchor in Ushuaia, up went the main and mizzen with their newly modified cars. It all seemed to work and Adele hasn’t had a problem since. They were full of praise for Harken’s quick reaction – getting the bits to Ushuaia over Christmas was no mean task in itself, but they are still scratching their heads over how such a small failure in engineering could have led to a very much bigger problem out in the middle of a very large ocean.