The past couple of watches have been filled with tricky winds and the difficult responsibility of helming. I stepped on deck for the start of the 1200 watch and immediately offered to take over on the grinder. Sean stopped me straight away, "Nah, Krusty (my boat given nickname), I figure you can take the helm next." Great, I usually prefer to helm at night with the guidance of the stars. Now I have no stars and we are flying the kite!
It took me a few minutes to get the feel for the helm with the course, the wind, and the kite trim. After steering a steady course for a while with only a few times of flogging the sail (oops!), Sean had enough confidence to pop below deck and check the latest race position updates. He came out of the nav station hatch shouting, "Derry~Londonderry~Doire's first place!" Cheers erupted on deck. This was the first time we were in the lead!
After a while longer, Sean came back to see how I was doing. At that moment, I lost the wind in the kite, the boat veered and I saw the kite disappear behind the main. It was no different than the times before, except this time the loaded sheet came free from the Spinnaker and went crashing to the water. With only the lazy sheet attached to the kite, Sean shouted the dreaded words for the first time on Derry~Londonderry~Doire, "All hands on Deck!"
The mothers and off watch tried scrambling up on deck as quickly as possible, but encountered a flogging lazy sheet coming down across the companionway hatch. I quickly handed the wheel over to Sean and leaped to the cockpit to prepare for a letterbox drop, where we bring the sail down through the boom and the bottom of the main sail. Everything that could have gone wrong with the letterbox set up had, but this gave Sean a few moments to rethink our next steps. I looked around a five people were laying down in the cockpit to stay clear of the snap shackle with the now loaded sheet, and the flogging line, and three other people staring at Sean waiting for him to give direction.
Under complete composure he analyzed the situation once more and shouted, "Guys I don't think we need to drop the kite. Who is wearing the pants of power?" (Our terminology for the harness) I looked down, and I was wearing the pants! "Krusty, do you think you can manage to shimmy up those shrouds and re-attach the sheet to the kite?" Shimmy up the rig you ask? Now that is a job on this boat I was born to do!
I quickly ran to the mast and tied my "bowline under pressure" with the halyard. Before I knew it, I was at the height of the clew, where I needed to attach the line. As Sean steered the boat and the crew winched in the kite, I tried my hardest to reattach the line. With three tries, it was not a charm, and I dropped the snap shackle and line below to the deck. "Watch your heads!"
While I sat above the deck, swinging like a kid on a playground in my harness. The three strongest and tallest guys on our boat brought the kite in close enough to get it re-attached. Sean steered back into the wind, the kite was eased, and we were smooth sailing once more.
My body and confidence completely shaken at losing the kite, the sheet, and failing up the rig, it was a huge reminder of how easily things can go wrong on the boat. At the same time the incident reinforced the crew's confidence in our skipper and his leadership of the crew as a team.
Luckily, no one was hurt, nothing was damaged, and more important, we didn't lose any ground by having to take the kite down!
Unfortunately, we didn't capture any stills of the moment, but we did hit the button for the CCTV. For now enjoy a photo of our team navigator giving a lesson on sail trim.