Squalls, knockdown and Chinese gybe - Robin Knox-Johnston with the latest from the 5 Oceans 13/11/06

You would not want to be around this boat at the moment. She is like a seagull with a broken wing and I am in a murderous mood.

Every batten in the mainsail is broken and having got across the Inter Tropical Convergence zone, when we ought to be making about 12 knots into the SE Trades, we are limping along at 4 knots with at least two days of repairs to do. There goes my chances of seeing the test match and, of course, the longer this takes the more pressure there is on my fuel supplies.

The problem came about as I was trying to get through for an interview at 4 pm. The system did not work. It was as I was trying to sort that out that the squall hit. I had seen it earlier, a dark cloud to the east, but had become engrossed in trying to sort out the connection. Anyway, the next moment the boat is on its side, I climbed on deck, the autopilot had given up as it could not control 32 knots of wind. I grabbed the helm but I could not control it either. I eventually had to give up the helm to let go the reacher sheet. Saga Insurance swung round downwind. I started to roll up the reacher but the furler twisted on itself and jammed.

I now had half a reacher out of control, and bashing itself to pieces, and a main that needed to be reduced. I reactivated the autopilot and went forward to try and roll up the rest of the reacher and that was when the Chinese gybe occurred. I have to say I expected to look aloft and see the worst and there it was. The mainsail had swung back and hit the runners and broken every single batten, some in three places.

It took another 40 minutes to get the reacher under control and below decks. I had to do it in little stages as if I let too much halyard go the sail just dropped into the water or pulled out ahead out of reach. It took a further hour to sort out the mess on deck and then I started on the mainsail. Its now down to two reefs, but that involved having to cut away the lazy jacks which were caught round an extended batten. I have two bits of the lowest batten below now, but need to get the other bit out which won’t be easy, and then work my way up the sail.

This is going to take at least to days, possibly three. So I lose even more time.