British Route du Rhum sailor Nick Bubb scales mast in 30kts of wind last night 2/11/06

Nick Bubb, currently lying in eighth place in Class 40 in the Route due Rhum had to climb the mast in 30kts of wind last night to free the spinnaker. Here’s Bubb account of what happened:

“I spent 16 hours on the helm yesterday pushing really hard with the fractional kite and a reef in the main. The wind then increased to over 30 knots and I was very tired so I thought I would drop the kite and get some rest. I got the snuffer down without a problem but when I went to drop the 2:1 halyard it only eased a metre and then jammed. The halyard had frayed at the top and the outer cover of the rope had chafed through and had bunched up preventing the halyard from running.

“I realised that I needed to climb the rig to cut the kite down but I was exhausted so tied the snuffed kite to the mast and slept most of the night. At first light I could see that the kite sock was starting to fray where it was flapping around and although the wind was still over 30 knots and the sea was huge I got out my Topclimber, provided by Seamark Nunn, and hauled my way to the top of the rig to cut the halyard.

“It took an hour and a half in total and I was so exhausted when I got back down that I just collapsed on the cockpit floor and couldn’t move for half an hour. My hands were so cut and painful that I could not even open the energy bar I had got out in preparation. The conditions were mental up the rig, it was very difficult to climb above the mast above the main because I had two reefs in. The movement was very violent and the boat was surfing at over 15 knots at times. I was very worried that we would do a Chinese gybe whilst I was up the rig. Coming back down the rig was very difficult as you have to go inch by inch and I got cramp in my hands and fingers.

“I will have to go back up again because there is metre of halyard wanging around which could get wrapped round the main halyard but I think I will wait until the conditions ease. I now have just the main up with two reefs and I’m going to get some sleep. When the solent is out as well the boat goes too fast down the waves for the auto pilot to handle and I really need some rest now.

“I am very frustrated because we knew about the chafe problem before the race started but we didn’t have enough time to make any major modifications to the rig, we just did what we could. I have lost so much ground and have dropped down the rankings which is very disappointing after working so hard over the past few days. The pace of this race in very fast.”