Day 19: Broach-gate
"Ahhhhhh snap, snap, snap!!," I said softly to myself as the boat started heeling over a bit too much with the boom slowly dragging in the water. The kite started falling over and my seated position started turning into an upright almost standing one. We were broaching, and broaching hard. It was our third broach of the day. It was only 7AM.
Following Ryan's broach a few days ago it seemed a trend had just begun. After swapping watch partners with Hearn for the night. I sat opposite Michaela during our first watch of the night. It was early in the morning, I'd say around 2AM. We were sending the boat, trying to increase the gap between us and our closer competition. I had the vang firmly in my hand after getting fair warning from Ryan as he came off his watch with Hearn. Throughout our watch, Michaela and I sat sharing stories of our travels and places we would like to travel to. The conversation was frequently interrupted by soft shouts of "vang, vang, vang!!" as the boat started to heel uncomfortably every now and then.
"Vang! vang! VANG!!! Michaela shouted with each "vang" getting louder and more urgent. I had blown the vang promptly after the first "vang!" and yet she went on. Shortly after realising the vang was let off, shouts of "Main! Main! Main!" immediately followed. This was indeed a broach. As fate would have it broach one of three.
With gusty winds and a tightly strapped spinnaker, we were bound to broach again. And so we did, this time with me at the helm. It was the second hour of watch and we broached again and mine was much much worse. I recall almost standing upright steering off for dear life, trying not to slip of the heeling boat. The end of the boom was well within the water and all we could do was wait as the boat slowly righted itself after Michaela let off the vang and the main sheet. Our watch ended with a laugh and a sigh of relief.
Now, when you see a rain squall over your right shoulder in what seems to be a great distance, don't ignore it. It was Michaela and I's second watch and again I was at the helm as she went down to download the latest GRIB file and position report. I was in a state of full send, and had been doing a steady 10 knots for the last 30 minutes with moments of around 12 knots down some waves. "Ahhhhh snap! snap! Snap!". It was happening, agian. This time it was different. That grey patch of sky I had ignored had finally come our way, and it hit us hard. I let off the vang and tried to reach for the main sheet but the boat was already heeling too. The was no sign of the boat correcting itslef after and I knew it was bad. Michaela quickly came on deck and called all hands and shouted "We need to drop the kite!". "Keeping steering down T!!" I heard emerge from halfway up the deck as the standing and pulling of the tiller started to tire me out slowly. The squall was still full force and the boat started drifting into the wind whilst almost fully on it's side. I was steering off and nothing was happening. It was just one of those situations where you have to wait it out. All of a sudden there was rain, and a lot of it. The boat was now righting itself and we were in the squall. Under this patch of grey and orange tinged cloud cover was a brief downpour of fresh water. Within 5-10 minutes we were out of the rain squall and back to our usual South Atlantic backdrop of blue skies, blue sea and bare sun.
The lesson I learnt from this was rather thourough and since then I've learnt to be more vigilant with how the smaller weather sytems of the sea operate. With that being said the storm that has started developing off the South American coast has been given great attention by the crew. We have started minor preparations as we await more accurate forecasting to better plan and prepare. I am confident more now than ever in the crew and in the boat after the time we've spent out here. As we spend the next day planning the safest route and doing all the safety checks and preps everyone is soaking in our last few days at sea, reflecting on the progress we've made so far and focusing on crossing the finish line safely.
- Tawanda Chikasha