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An Interesting Night


The top French skippers, particularly those with a Figaro background, never reveal when they have had an issue, never betray a weakness. At some point their mentors must take them aside and say "Francois, even if a Kracken is swallowing your boat, simply smile and say 'cest bon'". I mean look at Armel. His boat flips over in the middle of a howling storm and when he gets picked up the pictures show a guy without a hair out of place. Not me. I am an open book. One with short chapters and large print. I share my toils and troubles, foibles and failures, all in the interest of education and entertainment. So remember yesterday morning? You were all drinking coffee and reading my poetic celebration of a successful night of dealing with nasty cumulus squall clouds by the romantic light of the moon? That was sweet, wasn't it? Buckle up, butter up. Tonight had a completely different outcome. Same setting. Deep down wind and hustling through the Saragaso Sea in search of a rhum. Big, towering cumulus clouds everywhere, a mine field of them. Each with the same plan. 1 reef in, two ballast tanks of water, ease sheets, dive deep and ride it out. So I am stuck in one of those nasties for almost an hour. I caught the back of it as it crossed me left to right, and I was moving only slightly slower than it, so it was taking forever to get out of it. These beasties have their own local impact on wind, making lots more of it and twisting it which has the effect of pushing me more west than I would like to be. Sitting in the cockpit, watching wind puff up towards 25 knots, the pilot twitching like mad to keep it going straight and all the while headed away from the rhum. So altogether a frustrating experience and one where you are always in the edge of a bad wipe out. If only a wipe out were the outcome this past night. Instead, as I making little deals with pagan gods to let the wind drop by 7 knots and twist back 30 degrees, they answer with a chortle. Which sounded a lot like a "BANG". All of a sudden the boat slows and the world pauses. I look up and the top of the spinnaker is floating forward away from the boat, the sail folding and rippling like a fresh top sheet being snapped over your bed by your mom right before she makes you cinnamon toast. Beautiful, really. Peaceful too, in this quiet "world is paused" sort of way. Then the spinnaker, after 2000 straight miles of hard and faithful work, is in the water and coming alongside the boat which is still moving at 6 knots of speed even with this new sea anchor holding it back. My first thought was "Huh, I am going to need some help dealing with that". My second thought was "rats. Guess that is not gonna happen. This solo thing is overrated". The next 40 minutes were a pain filled blur. Try to pull in the 183 square meter spinnaker, realize that no amount of fitness training is going enable that to happen. Try to drop the main to slow the boat. Not happening with the main pinned to the spreaders and unable to fall. So out boat head to wind. Now the spinnaker is not only filled full of water, it's under the boat. Comtemplate cutting it all away. Flinch at the price tag, and remember that race rules prohibit us from littering. So.....crawl out on the sprit and blow the tack. Now the sail is behind the boat, attached only by the sheets. Grind in the sheets to bring the sail close to the boat. Haul it on board, hand over painful hand. Determine that I need to add hand strength exercises to my workout routine. Get the sail on board. HOLY FRIJOLES THAT WAS. DIFFICULT. Now I have to get moving. It's been almost 50 minutes of letting Audi and Compagne de France gain on me. Get the solent rolled out and boat. moving. Hoist main. Drink 3 liters of water. So I am back in business and still have a kite. I repack it, run the tapes twice. Miraculously, there seems to be only one small tear in the leech tape. Examination of the sock, now off the kite, reveals that halyard has broken, 6" from the shackle. . I am moving, but not at top potential because I need some daylight to clear a sheet tangled in my rudder and figure out what halyatd I can hoist the next sail on. And in the meantime I comb my perfect hair and practice saying "cest bon"