Saturday 16 December 2017

Sailing: All to sail for as Routes going down to the wire

Foxhall's Log

Eos loses control and broaches in breezy conditions and choppy seas off the Old Head of Kinsale on day two of the Sovereigns Cup.
Eos loses control and broaches in breezy conditions and choppy seas off the Old Head of Kinsale on day two of the Sovereigns Cup.

Damian Foxhall

Plymouth, end of stage three of the Routes des Princes around Europe and we've just made it two wins from three of the offshore stages of this 3,000 mile contest in ultra-fast multi-hulls.

On 'Oman Air Musandam', we're now tied for the overall lead with Seb Josse and the guys on 'Gitana' and, with less than a week remaining, this is going to go down to the wire.

We're fairly evenly matched. Gitana has won both of the two previous in-port series, while we've been dominant offshore and almost won into Dun Laoghaire, being just beaten into third place barely a mile from the finish of a 1,000-mile leg. Robbed.

As if that wasn't enough, we were penalised heavily for a starting-line incident in which we failed to give way to 'Spindrift', who were the overall leaders until last weekend's first and only in-port race in Dublin Bay.

Their spectacular capsize has left Jacques Guichard hospitalised in Dublin and we are all very conscious of that and wish him a speedy recovery from his fractured pelvis.

How did it happen?

Thankfully, such capsizes are very rare, at least on the inshore courses.

In the years when I raced the smaller ORMA 60 trimarans around France, I can only remember one such incident.

Explaining what happened on board 'Spindrift' last Saturday is impossible if you weren't on board and, even then, I'd say it happened so quickly it was next to impossible to react to.

In one sense, it was the perfect storm of factors that led to the capsize.

Three boats ahead, all closely matched and on the edge of control as they lifted 'a-hull,' but with one blocking another, it wasn't possible to de-power the sails as normal by steering up into the breeze.

Instead, as the hulls lifted off the waves, past the point of fast sailing and into the spectacular, but dangerous flight mode, the typical reaction on board is something like "okay, we're lifting ... time to react."

So the headsail is eased out, which is the next move after 'luffing-up' slightly into the wind.

But the headsail on these super-fast boats is small, so the effect is minimal, even with the reduced or reefed mainsails that we had last weekend.

Another two or three seconds would have passed before the rising hull would have been critical and then the helmsman would have had less than two seconds to ease out the mainsail or, in extremis, dump the hydraulics that would swing the mast away and de-power the boat to prevent capsize. It's down to micro-seconds.

At least it was a daytime capsize. Eight years ago I experienced a full capsize in the Bay of Biscay the day after Armel Le Cleac'h and I started the Transatlantic Jacques Vabre race on 'Foncia'.

A sudden squall, just like last weekend, caught the underside of our trimaran and before we could react flipped us over, trapping me under the hull and delivering a nasty shoulder injury. We were rescued by helicopter the next day and our boat salvaged afterwards.

We had been leading that race and since then, the Transat has been an itch in need of a good scratch by me.

I'll have my chance with our skipper Sidney Gavignet on 'Musandam' in November when just the pair of us will race this tri across the North and South Atlantic oceans to Brazil, so this race and Europe is ideal preparation.

In the meantime, we have a fight on our hands to edge ahead of 'Gitana' either by winning the in-port races here in Plymouth or winning the final offshore leg into the Bay of Morlaix next week. Preferably both.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport