American solo sailor Elliot Smith has tested his bowsprit repairs in 50 knot winds and believes it will be strong enough for the Southern Ocean

With a broken and bent bowsprit, Golden Globe Race skipper Elliot Smith thought that his race was over.

The American singlehanded sailor contemplated how he would fix the bent bobstay and bent starboard tubing, as well as the cracked port side tubing. The bowsprit on his Gale Force 34, Second Wind, is essential for keeping his forestay secure; without it, there is a real risk of Smith losing his rig, although he does have an inner stay to support the mast.

After motoring for six hours to the shelter of Simon’s Town in South Africa, the 27-year-old arrived at a solution which would keep him in the race.

A repair bowsprit on a boat

Elliot Smith spent three days anchored making repairs his boat’s bowsprit. Credit: Simon McDonnell/FBYC

‘First I had to think about how the bowsprit is used, and what its strengths and weaknesses are. I cut the tubes that cracked and buckled about an inch or two wide of the area it had buckled, then I drilled a piece of teak out and stood it underneath the bowsprit with a bunch of lines and cranked it up with a halyard and that took out the bend in the bobstay,’ Smith told Yachting Monthly.

‘I had anchor chain to secure it, so I ran a chain through the tubing at the end of the bowsprit where I had cut the sections out, and out the other side and I bevelled the edges so it ran smoothly. I then ran it back to the chocks onto the mooring cleats and then I ran a separate chain also to the chainplate aft of the jib to reinforce the pulpit. I had to get it really tight in order to take that load properly and I used a series of blocks and tackles and eventually led it back to some winches in the cockpit. Once I got it tight, I had to shackle it to a cleat. I made an extra compression post to prevent the bowsprit from buckling. I had some clamps of galvanised steel laying around. I managed to fit them to the two pipes, put a through bolt through them in the stem of the cleat, and then I ran it to the bowsprit and then I stacked teak under it and lashed it and screwed it all down to the old teak on the bowsprit. I’ve also run an extra halyard from the top of the mast down to the stem of the boat where the staysail is, and I keep that really tight as a back up emergency stay.’

A boat with a bowsprit sailing through the ocean with white sails

Designed by naval architect John Kaiser Sr, Second Wind was built by Kaiser Yachts. Credit: Nora Havel/GGR

As a result of the repairs, Smith has modified his sail plan. Initially he used just a small furler, but is now using the genoa as well.

‘I am cautious with the genoa on there now. I refuse to take any smashing so if I am beating into the wind, I tend to either furl a lot of sail away or have to ease off my course because I don’t want to add too much stress on the bowsprit. It has affected my sailing a little bit.’

Smith said he is confident the repairs will hold through the Southern Ocean; he could sail the entire leg under staysail alone if needed.

‘I already went through a storm blowing 50 knots and I had a little bit of the fore sail out to reach a little bit and it held up fine. I feel comfortable and confident that my repairs are good enough, and my preparations are good enough to at least give it a go,’ he said.

UPDATE: 16 December 2022

At 07.43 UTC, Elliot Smith sent a message to Race HQ: “BOWSPRIT BENT UP AGAIN-MAY HAVE2 CALL IT..”.

He called Race Control at 0820 UTC, reporting that he is OK, currently in 30-35kn Westerlies and that he was able to secure the mast with halyards. He is now considering his options, either carrying on West to Fremantle or going North and then West back to South Africa.

He will find himself in 30-40 knots North-Westerlies tomorrow afternoon, with a very quick wind shift to South at midnight. As soon as the front will have passed, he will have very calm conditions for multiple days.

Race Control has provided him with the weather forecast for his area and will stay in close contact with Elliott to ensure that he has all available information to make the best decision.

Continues below…

Apart from his bowsprit repairs, Smith said overall he is happy with Second Wind, although she is a wet boat.

‘She leaks a lot. Everything is wet, especially when I am on a port tack. Whenever the starboard rub rail is close to being submerged, water just goes right through and gets all over my bunk. I’m also not in love with my reefing. In high winds it is very difficult to reef the mainsail, but I get it done.’

Smith also wishes he had more light wind sail options. He lost his spinnaker in the Atlantic Ocean.

Elliot Smith made no landing and received no physical support while carrying out his repairs, so remains in the race. Credit: Simon McDonnell/FBYC

Elliot Smith made no landing and received no physical support while carrying out his repairs, so remains in the race. Credit: Simon McDonnell/FBYC

Despite these trials, he is pleased with his position in the Golden Globe Race fleet.

‘I’ve made it further than half the fleet. So I’m very, very proud and very honoured and lucky. I knew that I was capable of being in the last eight. I had full confidence. What is the point of doing something if you don’t think you can do it? The whole bowsprit thing was very, very emotional and I struggled a lot with that, but then I realised people that do difficult things have to overcome difficult tasks, and unfortunate things happen to everybody. It is just how you handle it.I felt that this was what I was supposed to do, and there were so many signs pushing me towards the Golden Globe Race; the least I can do is make it to Australia.’

And Smith will need to push hard as he needs to make the Hobart Gate by 31 January 2023 in order to be able to continue into the Southern Ocean.

Nora Havel/GGR 2022

Elliot Smith refitted his Gale Force 34 himself, with help from a team of friends. Credit: Nora Havel/GGR 2022

‘I would consider my luck for favourable sailing weather to be very poor for most of the race. Whether that’s because of my lack of knowledge of where to go and how to predict weather, I don’t know. I seem to have a day of no wind or really bad conditions when I am not making much progress, and then I get three days of really good wind and I am moving along well. It will be close but I should make it to Hobart,’ he said.

Smith said he was enjoying his own company, although he sometimes wished for ‘more challenges’ to keep himself occupied.

‘Being in my own company is part of challenge, and it can be difficult for me at times, but I’m learning from it and coping with it pretty well. Thank you to everyone who believed in me and helped me get this far. Everything is great. I am stoked,’ said Smith.

Current positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 14 December 2022 at 0800 UTC

Simon Curwen, (UK), Biscay 36, Clara
Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri
Jeremy Bagshaw, (South Africa), OE32, Olleanna
Ian Herbert-Jones (UK), Tradewind 35, Puffin
Elliot Smith,  (USA), Gale Force 34, Second Wind
Guy Waites (UK), Tradewind 35, Sagarmatha


Edward Walentynowicz, (Canada), Rustler 36, Noah’s Jest
Guy deBoer, (USA), Tashiba 36, Spirit
Mark Sinclair (Australia), Lello 34, Coconut
Pat Lawless, (Ireland), Saltram Saga 36, Green Rebel
Damien Guillou, (France), Rustler 36, PRB
Ertan Beskardes, (UK), Rustler 36, Lazy Otter
Tapio Lehtinen, (Finland), Gaia 36, Asteria
Arnaud Gaist, (France), Barbican 33 Mk 2, Hermes Phoning

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