Photo: Code 3 with battle scars.
During our night watch, there was a sudden "bang" and a shaking of the rig. We continued sailing along as per usual and Han went onto the bow to investigate. A number of potential causes were identified, none of which could be confirmed until daylight hours. This morning, I was awakened an hour or so early as standby crew to assist with a sail change. It turned out that there was a problem with a block at the top of the mast that supports the spinnaker halyard, so it was decided to change spinnakers and use the second spinnaker halyard instead as a precaution.
The challenge was, change to which spinnaker? We were flying the Code 2. Do we change to Code 3, typically used for greater winds, or switch to Code 1, used for lighter air. With the winds being in the lower range for this sail and gradually dropping, we decided to go for the Code 1. Sail change compete, it was back to bed, and just as I was settled in to do some reading, there was a loud "bang" sort of sound and the call went out for "All hands on deck!" Turns out the wind hadn't yet truly settled into softer winds, and a gust of about 30 knots came along and blew out the spinnaker.
When I emerged once again on deck, it was dragging in the water from the clew (where the "sheet" or rope is attached that is used to trim the sail). In chain gang formation, we heaved it back into the boat and stuffed it down below decks. Linda was hosted up the mast to retrieve a small piece of sail that got stuck on its way down. Before long, rigging was checked and another spinnaker hoisted. The Code 3 was used, since the Code 2 needed "wooling" after its earlier take down before it could be hoisted (this meant it had to be neatly wrapped, with wool ties every 2 feet or so, and packaged just so into its bag).
Wooling takes a team of 3 people close to 2 hours. If there are spare hands to help, it takes much less time. This work is done below deck, with each of the 3 pointy bits of the sail stretched end to end to end down 3 of the 4 "hallways" using up most of the floor space. After packing away the Code 2, it was soon re-hoisted and the Code 3 was wooled. It was a very busy couple of watches!
The ruptured Code 1 was examined. At first it seemed hopeless. Jane, who apprenticed as a sailmaker in her school days, felt the integrity of the sail could not be maintained. The Code 1 light air spinnaker is the only spinnaker that had not been damaged so far in the race since the boat left London UK last summer. It was expected to be much in demand in this race. Matt, our skipper, put on his puppy-dog face and exclaimed, "I've seen worse! Please, Jane, can't you try?!"
A closer inspection was made. There was a long tear along one edge where the tape pulled away from the main body of the sail. Additionally, there were some square angle tears, and a tear part way across near the top of the sail. An estimated 100+ feet of taping (double sided), plus sewing (on a machine kept on board for this purpose) would need to be done. Jane was given 7 days and taken off watch rotation duties. She has been put on a normal day/night cycle, so she can work on sail repair through the daylight hours. I want to learn sail repair, so I eagerly volunteered to assist.
We ensconced ourselves on a bench in the galley and got to work aligning the torn bits and taping the gashes with strips of sail cloth tape, working with 8 inch strips on a cutting board.
I helped as much as I could with the remaining daylight hours. Tomorrow I am "mother", so I am on a normal day/night schedule for 24 hours and hope to be able to help between mother duty tasks. Hopefully we can get the sewing machine out before long. Other crew members will be recruited to the task as well. Will we meet the 7 day deadline?