Heavy weather and sail changes for Vendee crews

Vendee Globe, non-stop, solo round-the-world-race skipper Sam Davies describes sail handling on an Open 60 in her latest missive.

“Writing is becoming harder, as Roxy is moving around quite a bit on the waves now! There is around 35 knots of wind and we are reaching fast in a rough sea – quite fun.

Last night, when the wind was at my limit of 27 knots I furled the big gennaker. As you can imagine, to roll away 250 square metres of Cuben Fibre in nearly 30 knots is quite a task. The law works that the windier it is, the tighter the roll, hence, the more turns you have to do. So that makes a fair amount of winding to get the thing under control.

“Under control” is perhaps not the best word to describe what is now a very slim, but very stiff “snake” that is now dangling from the masthead. The next task (I remind you that the platform on which we are working is FAR from stable) is to get said “snake” into the forepeak. Ha! “Easy” I hear you say. Well, sometimes. The only trouble is that the thing seems to have its own idea of where it is going and how it wants to descend. It is so tightly rolled that it will only bend at certain points, and at other areas it is more like a spring.

It reminds me of a TV out-take of a little boy with a live eel in his hand trying to put it in a jar; needless to say, the eel will not go in no matter how hard he tries! Last night I was that boy, the gennaker was the eel and the forepeak was the jar.

Well, I finally managed it and the gennaker is now confined to the forepeak. The next challenge is to get it aft a bit, as Roxy sails so nicely when we are stacked aft. But I have images of my gennaker taking up the whole cabin, pressing buttons at the chart table as I drag it past and blocking me out of my food bag. So, seeing as I may soon need it again, the gennaker has stayed forward!

Last night, as the wind built, I took a reef. The night was amazing. It was so stunning to be on deck. Roxy was surfing at 25 knots (that is my speed limit – any faster and I take a reef!) and there was spray everywhere. The night was black, but the breaking waves were glowing all around us with phosphorescence. It really was quite magical, enhanced still by my slight feeling of solitude in such a powerful environment.

S x”