Jonny Malbon describes sailing his Open 60
Jonny Malbon is part-way through his qualifying passage for the Vendée Globe, which he must complete by 1st September. His yacht was launched in April and the team have encountered a number of problems, meaning they are running behind schedule.
He writes: “I am shattered… Had a good yesterday, until I had to tack back to the south west to try and avoid the lightest of winds from the centre of the low. Tack completed, it became evident that the sea state was not going to play that game again. I tried sailing everywhere and anywhere to try and give the boat a ride that was not like trying to sail up a staircase. It did not work and became increasingly frustrating with the boat just slamming so hard off what seemed like every wave.
To let you know what it feels like – as you go up the wave the front of the boat becomes airborne. The pilot does its best but is not clever enough to avoid what happens next. As the wave passes under the boat, a big hole appears that the boat promptly falls into. Because the hull is so flat the impact is horrendous – the big fat underbelly of the boat slapping the water. Next thing to catch up with the boat is the wing mast, which gives a massive judder, chucking the masthead all over the place. At the same time as this, the fin and bulb, canted out at 40 degrees to the boat, flex and wobble, which sends ripples through the boat for about 5 secs. There is also a series of very loud noises – kit bags, cups, sails, nav station all banging round, and giving the impression that they are about to disintegrate. As you can imagine, very, very relaxing!
The reason the sea state is so bad here at the moment is due to the fact that the jetstream is firing all of the new depressions or low pressure systems much further south than normal. That’s why out here, I just have one after another to deal with. As these depressions make their way across the Atlantic they change the wind and sea conditions massively in a fairly localised area – as one system passes over disrupting the sea state, another one is queuing up behind. The sea never really gets a chance to get back to it’s normal pattern. This is a really horrible way to sail, and not good for the boat or the nerves – but still it continues.
Anyway after my tack last night, I was down below checking on the first ship I had seen in days when there was massive bang on deck. We had not fallen off a wave or anything so I rushed up to see what happened. One of the shackles on the boom vang had just split in half… bit of nightmare. I had to drop the main and then work out a fix. It took a couple of hours, and then just before the dawn, I had the big wind – full mainsail from bottom to top. Lovely. Anyway got that done and collapsed exhausted, looking forward to escaping the grey murk of the past few days, and getting some decent sailing in – oh no… slam, slam, slam… That’s where I am now, pretty fed up with it. Hopefully the sea state will get a little better as the breeze eases as I head west… Fingers crossed…”
Artemis Ocean Racing II racing in the Solent earlier this month>