Thursday 13 December 2018

Battered but not beaten by battens

Last year sailor Enda O'Coineen was forced to retire from the Vendee Globe round-the-world yacht race, when he lost his mast south of New Zealand. Now, he has pooled resources with another French boat which was also forced to retire - and plans to complete the course, sailing solo non-stop for 13,000 miles through the Pacific, around Cape Horn, up the Atlantic to France and Ireland. Enda writes his log on Le Souffle du Nord on Day 9 of his trip, from latitude 46 53 S longtitude 148 25 W

Sailing solo: Enda O'Coineen on Le Souffle du Nord.
Sailing solo: Enda O'Coineen on Le Souffle du Nord.

Enda O’Coineen

The past two days have been awful. They have been dominated by two intensive 12-hour working days using all of the available daylight. Going nowhere. Repairing battens together with other things that went wrong.

Murphy's Law has had another good "proof of case" outing. Namely, I take from the great Irish philosopher's words: "What can go wrong will go wrong". And they say that man was an optimist.

Which leads me to think that seemingly unrelated 'cause and effect' are big influences on our civilisation. One small unrelated incident - perhaps with the butterfly and hummingbird in the jungle - can lead to catastrophic events or great things. For one it may mean a row over being late for dinner; for another a nuclear holocaust. People can fight over a can of beans or profound events with the same passion or intensity.

Regardless and happily, Cape Horn edges closer. Only 3,000 miles to go. Despite what seemed like two major setbacks, we are back on track - after some sleep and recovery time - powering along the bottom of a gently high pressure over the bottom of our plant.

The weather is pointing us further south, to roll along the top of a depression. However, it is colder down there. While slower, I am not bothered with this and we can still make the target to finish in 60 days - but with Professor Murphy's Law on call, one never knows.

Essentially there was a small glitch in the NKE sophisticated HD self-steering system. It would randomly stop working.

Before setting sail we had the KIWI agent investigate. He managed to relieve me of $500 for us to learn that he did not understand the system and could not fix it.

By phone or online, the French manufacturer could not solve it either. But we decided to sail: a calculated risk, as we had a good back-up.

The HD was working without a fault. And then I left it on while taking a sleep. It was my judgment error. The wind piped up and it went off course.

We had a spectacular crash gybe - breaking three battens. But any risk to the mast was avoided.

On the ocean, rolling around in cramped space, it was physically demanding - a task that even on land for one would be tough. First I had to get the sail down and extract the battens, a major exercise. Using a powerful mobile hand drill, the repair was awkward and messy with carbon dust everywhere. Getting the battens back in was a major test.

I am generally fit, but every part of my body was pulled and tugged in many directions. Now it's painful to move and I am in recovery mode. It's amazing what you can do when you have to: a proud moment.

Supporting this pride on board for this voyage we have a pet monkey. Adolf, as he is named, has taken on a Gestapo personality - together with the gentle teddy from Steve Fisher at the Spirit of Adventure Trust and the devious Paddy the Leprechaun from Dublin Duty Free.

Though only 'stuffed', Adolf is the monkey on my back - and perhaps Francois and Sylvian's back with at Le Souffle du Nord with our joint mission to complete the Vendee Course as unofficial finishers.

Thanks for your support and sharing it with me. So let's toast Prof Murphy's Law and my heroic Lady Nicola with whom we share the planet and a French-Irish partnership of a different variety controlling pests.

"To the wind that blows

And the ship that goes

And a lass who loves a sailor"

Sunday Independent

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