Small Things, Big Things


Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Porto Cervo, Italy

8 September 2016

A Maxi racer is a big complicated piece of machinery. Inevitably small things go wrong. The challenge is to make sure that a small thing doesn’t turn into a big thing. We failed that challenge today.


After yesterday’s blow out and no race, today dawned beautiful with a steady northeast breeze of 15 to 20 knots that was forecasted to ease during the day. The race committee set us to another coastal race and we warmed up as usual sailing upwind and getting a feel for the day. All was well until we noticed that the hydraulic cylinder that adjusts the head stay was failing to hold pressure causing the mast to rake backwards in the boat. This…in case you hadn’t yet deduced it…was the small thing.


No big deal and the boys set about swapping out the hydraulic line and recharging the cylinder. Unfortunately the repair couldn’t be completed in time and we had to do an emergency ersatz lashing of the head stay figuring we would deal with it later in the race. Time waits for no man in yacht racing and we pressed on in the starting sequence. The pin was strongly favored and we fought for position down there. We weren’t perfect but Peter Isler put us in a decent position and we tacked away. Despite a less than ideal rig setting, we picked our way up the first beat and got to the top mark in first.


We gradually ground out a decent lead on the second leg and just as we were getting ready to set the chute as we rounded a rocky outcrop, Matt Landry decided he was too hot and promptly fell overboard when the top lifeline broke. Very fortunately the winds were light, the water agreeably warm and it was broad daylight. We quickly executed our man overboard procedures and got him back into the boat in less than ten minutes.


Once aboard, he got back into his job immediately and we got the chute up and headed back down the track still definitely in the hunt. Once we settled down, the boys turned their attention back to getting the head stay as we say – sorted. Just as we prepared to jibe, Dave Tank our foredeck expert looked down and saw the carbon fiber eye of the head stay where it attaches to the boat had somehow shattered and broken while we tried to effect repairs.  The big thing.   And our race was over.


We stabilized the mast quickly (if that had fallen over that would be a really big thing) and tried to figure out what do next to get it repaired. Larry and a contingent were nearly immediately picked up by the support RIB from Spectre. A very heartfelt thank you to them. While they whisked ashore to grab tools and vehicles, the rest of us turned the boat towards the shipyard in Olbia 20 miles away where as luck would have it, we have a spare head stay on an old mast. 


We got the boat there in good order and promptly stripped the head stay off the old mast. Nothing is of course standard on these boats and while it doesn’t fit perfectly, as of this writing, the crew thinks we can figure out a way to manage the connection points and get back out on the racecourse tomorrow. Fingers crossed.


So a small thing…a tiny leak in a hydraulic line just before the start, turned into a big thing with a broken head stay an hour later and with that we were done. Another small thing, a sheared pin on a lifeline put Matt Landry in the water. Had that happened at night, in a big sea and cold water…that little thing could have turned into something much worse.  So a day of lessons for us starting with Murphy is alive and well.


After such a strong start, we are of course disappointed. But we aren’t out of it yet. It’s a small class and the damage was contained. Our best bet is to do what we do, go out and race the best we can and let the chips fall where they may. Just please no more small things tomorrow.


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