Just when things were getting serious aboard Happy Spirit, bang goes the spinnaker

The heat is on to get the old girl to the finish in a respectable time. It had to happen, we we’re keen and had been getting too cocky with the kite, having had it up two consecutive nights on the run we thought we were above the law. We were re-calculating our arrival time every moment that there was an upsurge in boat speed, eagerly guessing how many glasses of rum punch we could knock back before the emergence of our nearest rivals. Then I woke with a start, sensing, as a skipper does, that something is about to give rise and a change is in the offing, in the form of a squall.

“It’s only a small one,” said Chloe. The wind strength rocketing as she spoke and carrying her words away with it. Bang, and the sheet parts company with the sail; the clew has been torn out. Laurie, John and I are all climbing around the deck, tripping over each other’s and our own harnesses, in the slashing rain, wrestling the sail back aboard after an enthusiastic release of the halyard has presented it with an impromptu bath in the briny.

With the sail now rescued, the wind, at once, disappears leaving the boat with no steerageway and the autopilot complaining audibly. Now we have to employ the engine to assist in regaining our course.

“Watch the sheet and the clew aren’t in the water and go around the prop.” I bellow aft. We hasten to unfurl and pole out the genoa, eager to be on the move once more, and are just returning down the deck to the cockpit when, whoosh, the genoa descends gracefully and silently from its groove heading the same way as the kite into the drink!

“Quick, Quick Quick” is all I can yell, trying urgently to recall which is the, seldomly-hoisted, genoa halyard. Happily, it is quickly recovered, rehoisted and we are back in business, albeit, now at a snail’s pace.

Tomorrow it will be Happy Spirit MK 3 kite’s turn to be called into service, out of retirement and back on the front line. Will this venerable, tri-radial, patch work quilt of a sail stay intact to St Lucia and give us the miles we need?