At the time I write this Mark is in a big storm and Gregor has just lost his mast after a 360-degree roll. One of Marks doubts was the early start of the race. Most skippers would have preferred a start in late August or September. General planning for boats this seize and speed is to be at Cape of Good Hope mid spring and not in winter. Also the finish is now planned in February while the end of April would have been the better choice. But all skippers knew this and accepted it. And in the Long Route, the same route but not a race, skippers decide themselves when to start. The first boat has a very experienced skipper and she is in the same storm. Because of better conditions the fleet is also ahead of schedule. Fact is that they are in the Southern Ocean in winter with bigger changes of storms.
In these conditions any boat has a change to make a 360-degree roll. Keeping a speed of around 5 knots gives boats like these the best changes to survive and lower the risks. It is like riding a bike. Too slow and you fall. Too fast and you can lose control. As long as the mast sticks less than 45 degree into the sea most of these boats will come upright. In seas like this a boat with the mast right down will get these huge waves acting on the keel and will come back upright within minutes. The biggest risk is losing the mast. Some boats with less stability might benefit from some water inside the boat. This floating water will bring the boat back more easily. But 1000 L water inside a boat is not funny.
The steering can give difficulties as well. Big waves hitting the vane blade will bring the boat off course. Especially the hanged on rudder boats will get big forces from the waves on the rudder. This can damage the self-steer device.
Losing the mast doesn’t mean the end of the world but certainly the end of the race. The good thing of most long keeled boats is that without the mast they will sail more or less in the same direction as the wind while the most dangerous situation is having wind and waves from aside without speed. As long as the mast has not caused damage to the hull most of these boats might be safer after losing the mast. They all have jury rigs and ample of food and water so they will make it to Australia without mast if needed. I hope that Gregor will stay safe on his boat and can make landfall.
Let’s hope Mark will survive the storm without damage. It is spring so conditions may gradually improve. He sounds in good condition on his radio messages.
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