Ever wondered what it takes to change the gennaker onboard a 130-foot maxi trimaran?

Unable to repair a damaged daggerboard, the crew of the maxi trimaran called off their Jules Verne attempt and are sailing back to France (read previous story here). Helmsman Brian Thompson (48) sent us this update from onboard, illustrating just what it takes to make a sail change:

I thought as I have an amazing 40 mins before I go on watch with nobody else waiting for the computer, and only one job to do – looking after the watermaker and filling the waterbottles, that I would run through a typical sail change. Like the one we did last night from big gennaker to the medium gennaker.

Just to let you know that turning the winches with the four grinding pedestals in the cockpit is a big part of the process. Two people can be on each side of a pedestal so there are eight people providing the power for the manouver. The numbering on the winch gear ratios work in the opposite way to a car. So first gear moves the rope really fast, one turn of the handle on the pedestal provides one turn of the winch and might pull in a metre of rope.

Second gear might be 12 turns of the handle for one turn of the winch, and 3rd gear might be 64 turns of the handle for that one metre of rope. So much wider gearing than a car and with first being the ‘fast gear’ and third being the ‘crawler gear’. So lets do a sail change (grinding in brackets, like rally pace notes):

  • Watch captain takes the helm
  • Standby watch captain takes the mainsheet
  • Two pitmen ready either side of the cockpit
  • First job, go from 2:1 sheet on big genn to 1:1. The 2:1 is to stop the winches breaking under load
  • So attach change sheet and pull in (short 2nd)
  • Take off 2:1 block on gennaker clew and reattach sheet directly on to clew to make 1:1
  • Pull in old sheet (short 2nd) and ease off change sheet
  • Five people drag new medium gennaker to windward trampoline, open and tie down bag.
  • Attach tackline, sheet and halyard
  • Take in rope tackline on big gennaker (short 2nd, long 3rd)
  • Ease hydraulic tackline from big gennaker and transfer to medium gennaker
  • Hoist medium gennaker (long 1st, long 1st underdrive gear, medium 2nd, short 3rd)
  • Pull in on hydraulic tackline (long 3rd)
  • Deploy genoa sail (long fast 1st, long 2nd)
  • Roll big gennaker (long fast and hard 1st)
  • Unroll medium gennaker (very fast 1st, long 2nd, medium 3rd)
  • Roll genoa (long fast and hard 1st)
  • Ease big gennaker tackline and take out of masthead lock (medium 2nd, short 3rd)
  • Five to seven on tramp to drop big gennaker, put in bag and drag to edge of tramp to tie down
  • Take in on change sheet (short 2nd)
  • Reattach 2:1 on medium genn clew and take up (short 2nd)

Job done, it took me longer to write than to do, but that’s French keyboards for you!
Bye for now, Brian

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