Robin Knox-Johnston grapples with his mainsail, as his boat Saga Insurance is put to the test 7/2/07

Log dateWednesday 7 February 2007
PositionLat 50 16S Long 146 32W
Miles To Norfolk, USA9,822 nm
Distance In 24 Hours207.7 nm
Average Speed In 24 Hours8.65 knots

A grey mist on the seas face and a grey dawn breaking” (*) describes how today started. Cold, clammy and misty. But to this was added the calamity of the new mainsail headboard slider connection coming adrift, (**) and when I got it down I discovered it had sheared one of its lugs. It came apart because its connecting pin dropped out. There are bits of it up the mast, bits broken and bits missing, not an encouraging situation. So now I can’t hold the top of the mainsail to the (mast) track. I put a spare slide on as a stopgap but it did not survive the first gybe and came off the track, hopefully doing no damage on the way. After some six hours of various attempts, lengthened by the sails bolshy determination to get caught behind the lazy jacks and runners at every available opportunity. I have some main set at the moment, a fathom or so short of the third reef, (i.e. the top third of the mainsail) but it is baggy because I don’t want to put too much pull on the leech (the back edge of the sail) and wouldn’t get me to windward and will be a critical handicap if I cannot fix it when we get lighter conditions.

If the slides don’t drop down I may have to go up and get them, but not in these conditions. I remember being told that the ideal rolling period on tall ships is 8-9 seconds. If the ship has too much righting moment she rolls faster and this would throw sailors off the yards. Our current rolling period is 3-4 seconds. In the meantime the wind is from south of SW Force 6 occasionally gusting 7 in the frequent squalls, and we appear to being headed, so we press on but not as fast as I’d like, nor the direction I want, and I’m losing those precious miles I gained the last few days.

I always said this was a test of equipment and boat as much as the sailor and so it is proving. The failure of this fitting will cost a lot more miles than we’d lose if I slept six hours on the trot. I do not have a spare for this fitting since you don’t expect it to fail, and in any case, you cannot carry a spare for every single item as you’d never move through the extra weight.

Not much more to report the day Stamm rounded the Horn, a phenomenal effort. He is way ahead of everyone but it would have been interesting to have had Golding and Thompson still in the race, and seen how the race would have developed.”

There is now exaggerated care when using THE bucket and because I have been busy all day tonight’s meal will be freeze-dried because I have not had time to be creative.


*John Masefield’s poem, Sea Fever (1878-1967)
**The headboard car is a crucial part that allows the mainsail to slide up and down the mainsail track, which in turn is attached to the side of the mast. One of the metal fixings on the headboard car has sheared away.