Getting in to the Spirit of things...

Getting in to the Spirit of things
Mike and team spent yesterday on the water preparing for Sunday’s start

As other ARC’ers spent the day ticking those last few to do boxes, or perhaps just making hollow promises not to visit the Match bar in the evening, the dedicated crew of Spirit slipped lines and headed out for some sailing practice yesterday (Wednesday 19 November). A little sluggish from the previous night’s meat orgy at a local steak house, followed by a few companionable beers, it was encouraging to see everyone there on time.

Skipper Hamish briefed us on the day’s activities and gave us our starting positions for Sunday. During the crossing we’ll be working in two watches, but he wants each person to have a clearly defined role for the start.

I got runners. The main carries massive roach so there’s no permanent backstay. Without the runners on, no backstay equals no mast, so the job is not without its pressures. To make things more interesting, the runners are trimmed almost as regularly as the sheets to squeeze maximum performance out of the boat. When fully powered up, they put around nine tonnes of load on the forestay.

These boats are quite quirky. Firstly, there’s the water ballast. Two and a half tonnes of seawater can be pumped aboard in three minutes. The six tanks (three each side), and the pipes and other bits that go with them, take up a lot of room below. The Volvo teams raced with eight to 12 crew. Our crossing, with 16, looks like it’ll be cosy to say the least.

The primary winches have six speeds! A special overdrive system, developed to give higher line speeds for hauling in the asymmetric sheets during gybes, doubles the usual three speeds of the carbonfibre Harken winches.

The main and spinnaker halyards have locks on them so the head of the sails can be locked up there once hoisted and the tension eased out of the halyards. Getting the locks to hold can mean a bit of ‘Up a bit. No, down a bit.’ But they save weight aloft by allowing thinner halyards to be used. Without them, halyards apparently last about 30 minutes before chafing through.

We spent the day tacking and gybing, hoisting and dropping, peeling and tweaking.

A brief lull in activity (while thumping our way upwind) gave us time to wolf down the mass of sarnies and salad that Lumpy had prepared down below. Lethargic from more food, we did a man overboard practice and a few more manoeuvres.

As we motored back to our berth, we all felt pretty pleased with our first performance as a team, but how we’ll like living together remains to be seen! Roll on Sunday.