Emma struggles with her most serious problem yet: a broken gooseneck. ‘Imagine trying to skin a snake with a corkscrew whilst wearing a pair of boxing gloves,’ explains Josh Hall
Yesterday Emma Richards needed all her stamina and ingenuity to fix her biggest problem yet. The gooseneck parted from the bolt that fixes it to the deck and the jaws of the inboard end of the boom had opened out (on Open 60 the booms are usually fixed to the deck at the mast base rather than to the mast itself). A lesser sailor would perhaps have continued under headsails alone or flown the mainsail loose-footed and hobbled on to Cape Town, but that wouldn’t be racing, and Emma is definitely racing.
So instead she handed the main and got on with the job of repairing it. As the owner of the boat, Josh Hall appreciates better than anyone what it took, and he explains what happened:
‘On seeing the threat that the failed gooseneck posed to the deck and mast base, she let the mainsail down in order to take the pressure off the boom. Desperate to not lose any of her hard-won miles, she disconnected the mainsail from the boom and re-hoisted it with a block lashed onto the clew for a mainsheet.
‘A full hoist is exhausting – 165 square metres of sailcloth weighing 125kg takes a fair bit of grunt to hoist up the 25m mast. That done, the boat was more stable and whilst the sail shape may not have been optimum it kept the boat roughly on the pace. The trio of Stamm, Emma and Dubois are almost match-racing in this event and any downtime could be critical to the result.
‘Now Emma could concentrate on the problem. A retaining bolt under the deck had come loose from all the banging, crashing and vibration of the past few weeks and this had allowed the gooseneck to ride upwards, opening up the deck-jaw that it normally sits in to such an extent that the top part of the jaw was now a mangled mess. To stand any chance of the assembly working again the top jaw needed to be straightened down and the gooseneck re-bolted through the jaw and the deck.
‘Putting this assembly together had been a three-man job in Brixham while tied in a calm marina. Now Emma had to do it alone, in a race environment on a bucking deck. Like all on-board dramas for solo racers, just one more hand, not even a pair, just one, would help oh-so much, but it’s not available. Imagine trying to skin a snake with a corkscrew whilst wearing a pair of boxing gloves and you may imagine how difficult it is sometimes!
‘She set about creating a cats cradle of lines from various parts of the gooseneck jaws back to her powerful Harken winches. She then trimmed and tweaked the 10mm aluminium plate back into shape (well, near enough) and was able to get the central vertical pin relocated. That all sounds pretty easy when written down in a paragraph – I can assure you it was not, it took hours and was quite possibly the most difficult and critical repair that Emma will have to carry out on this event.
‘So, by 1700 GMT Emma was again contented and again strolling her deck. Now she has to keep a close eye on the somewhat weakened gooseneck as well as the sail trim but she is back in game at 100 per cent with minimum downtime. It has to hold up for the rest of the leg – she deserves it to.
‘Yesterday Emma proved to us what she is made of and we liked what we saw. Rock on, girl!’