Crash gybing a gaff rig.
After yesterday, it’s not something I’d advocate. Actually, it’s something I’ve been a bit in fear of for the last three years or so, ever since we re rigged to gaff. New crew are always inducted with a small lecture on the importance of the running backstays and that they are critical to the ahem... upright nature of the rig. I’m guilty of a slight exaggeration I suppose, but it doesn’t hurt to impress the things on them.
Anyway, yesterday I trotted on down to the boat for her first race of the season confident in the 15 knot forecast that we would be setting all sail,.. topsail ,jib , staysail and the 600ft gaff main. I was a bit uneasy at the wind strength at 9.00am. By 11, the wind speed at Tiri, north of Auckland and close to the Americas cup courses, was 27knots . Add the sea breeze to that and I should have known that it meant 37 a bit later on.You know the Americas cup course don’t you.... that’s where they never race. Saturday I was out on a quick test sail doing 6 knots under main and working jib. Cup racing cancelled for lack of wind. Sunday, the day I’m talking about ,we were racing and the cup racing was cancelled for too much wind. Today... welll gggguess what? Not enough wind.
So , back to Sunday.......In a flash of deductive reasoning over half an hour or so I reefed. We started the race and did the first loop of the course in quietly escalating wind strength. By the time we came to our second of three downwind legs, it was 30knots and we were heading for the beach. I’ve always been able to get the main right in before. Usually we swig her right in tight, set up the new backstay and release the old , clank her over and fizz that sheet right on out. This day it was like hauling on a steel reinforcing bar stuck in about ooooh 150 lds of cement. It was coming, but not by much.
Skippers mistake: I handed over the helm to help get the main in. We were doing about 9 and surfing up to 10.5. Unfortunately, that still meant 20 knots of apparent wind in the thing. The helmsperson who shall remain nameless but has long hair, is rather gorgeous and is married to me ,had some trouble coping with the ahem... frisky nature, that a counter stern imparts in a following sea , wind against tide, in 30 knots of breeze with a keel hung rudder.
In short. She cocked it up and we yawed up the wrong way and crash gybed. Do I blame her? No I certainly do not. I was helming and had the feel for the circumstances. I should have decided to give in and wear and I was right on that point when the decision was abruptly made for me.
So we are gybing you see. The boom has just made the start on it’s 28ft scribe around behind us. I’m still uttering the educated advice ” don’t let it gybe” as it whistles towards it’s inevitable conflict with the ex windward running backstay and the minimum damage of a break about the middle somewhere . In one of those slow motion moments I started my dive for the lever. fortunately time had slowed significantly and I was able to move relatively fast and got it off. Billy got the new windward lever half on and she slammed over and we rounded up to about 90 degrees off the wind. 500 square ft saying" don't mess with me"
It all stayed up. We crash gybed a gaff cutter in a ton of wind and we still have a rig. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me feel. I feel good. I feel vindicated in my choice of aft lowers plus aft intermediates (or “swifters” as they are sometimes called ) and I feel well set up for some good sailing this year without being over concerned with rig integrity.
Shortly after this, we caught a wave right on balance and scored our top speed of the day , 11.25 knots. The wind came up after this and the last leg into the wind and with the tide was hairy and wet in up to 40 knots. We finished though. Third out of three. The others all dropped out. I’m pleased and it was a great day really. What a mission.
The sprit under.
[ 11-24-2002, 10:58 PM: Message edited by: John B ]