Offshore Safety and Spinnakers

The big day of Level 3 training has arrived. This is the last stage before training in July with my assigned crew and the start of the race in August. As on every training week to date the week starts with theory, a whole day of avoiding accidents, learning how to manage incidents while offshore and out of reach of emergency services. It is called the RYA ISAF Offshore Safety Course and you get a certificate if you behave.

The 70s have a different deck layout, it takes a little bit of getting used to but it is so much better that it did not take long to find the jammers for each of the halyards and reefing lines. The most exiting change is the double pedestals or “Coffee Grinders”. These can be connected to the big primary winches and you can get four people to grind on the winch. At third speed we managed to get the main sail up in seconds. To avoid breaking the winches we were instructed to stop a metre before the sail was at the top, disconnect one grinder and do the last metre with only two people. It takes coordination and controlling your excitement; everybody needs to have their hands on the handles BEFORE you start grinding. Apparently teeth have been lost by crew getting a handle in their face.

After a day of getting familiar with the 70′ Clipper boat we started the second day with spinnaker techniques. The spinnaker is bound with woollen thread to form a star. It stops the sail from inflating while hoisting it. Pull on a sheet, the wool will break and the spinnaker inflates with an impressive ‘pop’ and ‘bang’. It is awesome to see a piece of cloth bigger than the size of a tennis court (330 sq. metre or 3,555 sq. feet) appearing in front of you. Incredible!

The rest of the week was spend gently sailing in the Channel at few knots of speed, hoisting the spinnaker, accelerating to 16 knots in moments, reaching Weymouth in hours and turning back towards Portsmouth. A new experience was “Broaching”, when the mainsail has too much power, pushes the boat over and upwind. The rudder then loses laminar flow, stops working and the boat steers into the wind with flapping sails and spinnaker. We had a few near misses but it did not happen; we had repaired more than enough rips in the spinnaker.

The weather was generally great for the South Coast of England. A bit of fog without any wind, wind and a day of sunshine. The last day was shorts and t-shirt weather finishing the week in style.

Looking forward to Crew Allocation on 25th April.