Broken mast! What next?

Breaking a mast is by no means outside the realm of possibility on a sailing boat. Even if you have done everything right yourself there are always outside factors, never more so when racing. And frankly it even happens to the US Navy.

During the New York Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta, 10-12 June 2016, the race committee sent the IRC classes offshore from Brenton Point. Among the boats racing were two boats from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. These so called Navy 44’s, now about twenty years old were purpose built training boats used by the Academy for, certainly sailing, but team building, offshore sailing experience, resources management and leadership training. All skills these young sailors will be called upon to use for the next twenty years at least. A wise man, a pilot, once said to me any one can fly a plane in a straight line, it is knowing what to do when something goes wrong is the trick.

And so it is with sailing. What do you do when something goes wrong? When it DOES go wrong is not the time to find out. For a successful recovery from any incident there needs to be a plan in place for all hands to follow. Nowhere is this a more needed component of sailing than with the Naval academy midshipman due to the generally low level of sailing background and experience the Academy students have compared to the passages they make and the responsibilities they take on.

I was racing on the same course as the Navy boats and when the Race Committee abandoned racing for the day, after the wind piped up over 30 knots true, we all made our way in. On our boat we heard some traffic on the VHF about a boat with a broken rig but were occupied with keeping our own house in order and so did not really think about the dismasted boat for a few minutes.

As we motor-sailed towards Castle Hill it became clear the dismasted boat was one of the Academy 44’s. The first thing that struck me was that the mast was on board. This is generally a rare situation, masts go overboard most often to leeward and so are usually cut away and lost to the sea. Hummm, I wondered, what happened here? What was different about this dismasting that allowed the Midshipman to get the spar on board……?

This post is the result of an interview with the Commanding Officer of the 44, Midshipman James Reynolds, (entering his senior year at the Academy) a couple of days after the incident.

The wreckage of the broken mast lashed down on top of Defiance.

The wreckage of the broken mast lashed down on top of Defiance. Carina’s bow went up across the side deck & smashed the hand rail.

I was particularly interested in the dynamics of the crew for several reasons. One is the Navy sailing squad is commonly populated by students with not much, if any, sailing background. In this case Midshipman Reynolds had the most sailing background growing up sailing Opti’s, 420’ and, living in New Jersey, scows on Barnegat Bay. Of the 9 Midshipman aboard, including two women, one of whom was the executive officer on the boat, about half had some time on the boats and at sea. So by and large an inexperienced crew, arguably less experienced in absolute terms than perhaps any crew in the regatta.

Then there was the fact that the mast was on deck, an unusual aspect to a dismasting. On the other hand we are talking about some of the brightest and capable young men and women in the country who are being trained and groomed for major leadership roles in the United States Navy and so broadly speaking on behalf of the US in general.

The Mid's did well to secure the spar. That was just about the third order of business after a head count and inspection below to make sure the hull was not holed.

The Mid’s did well to secure the spar. That was just about the third order of business after a head count and inspection below to make sure the hull was not holed. You can see the dent in the toe rail as well as some of the scratches. Probably due to the angle of heel AND the classically raked bow, Carina did not penetrate the hull.

Midshipman Baldwin outlined the process where by non-sailing freshman are introduced to sailing starting with a few hours of classroom instruction. They then move to hands-on sailing in the Academy’s fleet of Navy (Colgate)26’s. From this sailing the ‘big boat’ teams are selected based on criteria including aptitude and initiative.

A review of the Academy’s sailing website demonstrates the details in which the Midshipman are instructed and the goals including-The following paragraph is a Cut and paste from the site:

Offshore sailing serves as an ideal platform for team building, small unit leadership, and seamanship skill development. All planning and decision making involved with day sailing and long distance transits and racing is made by midshipmen team members. Skills developed include navigation, strategic planning, resource management, vessel maintenance, weather tactics, and racing strategy.

A broken mast is one of The Eight Events* for which crews on sailing boats in the ocean (even only a few miles offshore of Brenton Point) must be familiar.

The broken end of the spar. The mast head was extended about 20 feet aft of the boat.

The broken end of the spar. The mast head was extended about 20 feet aft of the boat.

So, on with the story:

On the way out to the start the breeze was in the 18 to 20 knots true from the north-west. Baldwin told me that there was a pretty standard team meeting that covered the action for the day, what to expect, especially with the breeze at hand and the forecast for stronger winds later in the day and the admonition to be aware of the loads, do not stand in the bight of a  line, double check what you are doing and to be steady and careful.

The incident occurred on the second upwind leg of the first race. Defiance, the Navy boat was sailing up wind on starboard tack in about 20-22 knots of true knots wind with a full main and number three set.

The impact tore the standing rigging right out of this carbon fiber laminated chainplate.

The impact tore the standing rigging right out of this carbon fiber laminated chainplate.

Mid. Reynolds, acting as tactician and so not steering, saw Carina, the venerable McCurdy and Rhodes 48 footer sailing upwind towards them on port tack and determined a crossing situation was in the offing. He made the ‘starboard’ call and Carina responded by easing sail’s and steering to pass astern of the Navy boat. Baldwin is not one hundred percent certain exactly what caused the next event, but thinks that Carina was knocked hard by an errant wave (there was a nasty chop left over from Saturday) that hit Carina hard and pushed her up to where she collided with Defiance.

Defiance being on Starboard tack was rail down to Carina and so the latter, with her classically raked stem, slid up the deck of Defiance, damaging the toe rail, smashing the hand rail pushing a winch of its mounts, hitting and breaking the boom close to the gooseneck and ripping the lee side chain plates out of the boat. The force of the collision pushed the Navy boat up into the wind, with the result that the mast fell more or less directly aft, landing on the aft rail. This answered the ‘how did they get the mast aboard’ question, since it never actually went overboard.

It broke in two places, right at the partners and about 12 feet up the mast. The crew was of course hiking out on the weather rail and scrambled to avoid being hit. The after most crew member actually jumped over board so as to avoid the spar crashing down around him. He had the presence of mind to hang on to the lifelines as he did so and so ended up hanging onto the boat and he was promptly gathered back aboard.

The bow of Carina penetrated all the way to the boom, which was smashed to.

The bow of Carina penetrated all the way to the boom, which was smashed to.

I asked what happened in the first few second after the mast fell. First action was a head count. Reynolds ended up in the cockpit, on the floor and could account for half the crew in his vicinity. The XO was further forward and reported all hands aboard and un-hurt, although in a few minutes one of the crew was taken below with what transpired to be concussion. Next step was to dispatch a hand down below to make sure the boat was not taking on water. Parallel to these activities, all in the first few second, the ships Safety Officer, Jon Wright took command of the boat. Not surprisingly, working for the Navy Offshore program Wright has vast experience across all manner of boats. What happened within the next thirty seconds?

The stainless steep protector around the Dorade was not spared either.

The stainless steel guard rail around the Dorade box was not spared either.

The crew emerged from under the sails. The bowman and foredeck hands started to work on getting the sails secured. The top 20 feet or so of mast was lying across the stern rail and dipping in and out of the sea, aggravating the situation with the mast flailing around on deck. They were able to get the headsail secured but had to cut the mainsail at the first reef, luff to leech after which they could remove the mainsail from the mast. Next task was to work on securing the mast. The boat was now sideways to the sea and was rolling heavily and so aggravating the situation with the mast in and out of the sea.

I asked if the actions were all on initiative or on instruction from Wright, (known almost universally as JW)? A combination of both was the answer. The crew had had sufficient instruction and, while not actually handling broken masts, training in what to do. The lee rigging, now disconnected from the boat was fortunately lying in the water, minimizing further potential damage to crew and boat from flailing wires.

One of the crew radioed the Race Committee advising them of the incident. The RC responded by sending the Windward mark boat to assist.

One of the crew remarked on having been hit, feeling lightheaded and unwell. She was dispatched below under the care of the XO, the other young lady in the crew. Once ashore she was diagnosed with concussion.

Within five-ten minutes the spar was secured along the centerline of the boat. The remains of the boom had been freed but discarded. The wheel had been damaged when the rig hit it and was out of commission so the emergency tiller was rigged.

The wheel was bent as the spar landed and so the Mid's rigged the emergency tiller.

The wheel was bent as the spar landed and so the Mid’s rigged the emergency tiller.

In a brief conversation with Rives Potts the owner skipper of Carina, I asked him if he had the opportunity to make any observations of the navy crew’s response. Potts told me that Carina immediately lowered sails and stood by. Once they ensured their people were OK and the boat sound, Potts had the opportunity to follow the action on Defiant. He remarked on the calm and professional way the young Navy sailors conducted themselves. ‘There was no yelling or shouting, they looked very cool and collected, and went about securing the boat although they scuttled the boom. It seemed like they had the mast secured very quickly. All in all a very impressive piece of work by young sailors’ he told me.

In a separate conversation with Jon Wright, again a pretty quick one-he and Potts are, as I write, preparing to go to Bermuda and the forecast is for hard winds-He concurred with Potts in the calmness with which these young sailors conducted them selves. He confirmed Reynolds remarks that the first order of business was to make sure every one was on board and not injured. Closely followed by an inspection down below for hull security. He agreed with Potts with the view that the actions and demeanor of the crew were very calm and professional. The crew worked together, with different members proposing solutions to the micro problem in their particular area.

The take away from this discussion and incident?

Planning, preparation and a game plan.

At one of your off season crew gatherings, walk the troops through the eight events, noted below, and work up an Actions Plan for each one. The Navy sailors were fortunate to have this accident in broad daylight, 4 miles offshore and moderate sea. These circumstances may not be in place if your rig comes down.

*Coopers Eight events:

In the Junior Safety at Sea seminars produced by the Storm Trysail Foundation, I cite the following events as situations for which there needs to be established plans and protocols.

Dismasting, holing, man overboard, medical emergency, abandon ship, fire, rudder or steering failure. (They sound the same but are a bit different in the required response.)


During the Storm Trysail Foundations junior SAS every year, local high school sailors are introduced to the issues surrounding operating a big boat in a safe and seamanlike manner. Her, the hugely experienced former Commodore of the Cruising Club of America and multi-time Bermuda Race participant discusses some of the  safety equipment used on big boats.

During the Storm Trysail Foundations junior SAS every year, local high school sailors are introduced to the issues surrounding operating a big boat in a safe and seamanlike manner. Here, Sheila McCurdy, the hugely experienced former Commodore of the Cruising Club of America and multi-time Bermuda Race participant discusses some of the safety equipment used on big boats.


















Newport to Bermuda Race-What sails?

Sails for offshore and the Newport to Bermuda Race:

The Newport to Bermuda Race, sailed in even numbered years and it’s counterparts that are sailed in odd numbered years, The Marion to Bermuda Race and The Bermuda 1-2 are something of a right of passage for many US sailors, especially those in the north east. While not particularly long in terms of famous ocean races, the weather across the track can make for some pretty hard going, more so for the unprepared. The Bermuda race is roughly the same distance as the Sydney to Hobart race and the Fastnet race but as has been seen in both these races distance is not the only factor to contend with when preparing to race (sail) ‘only’ 650 or so miles.

The Newport to Bermuda Race committee is rightly proud of their safety record (only one loss of life in the race’s history) and so the organizers hunt and peck from a variety of sources and mandate a few of their own safety regulations in some cases.

The default regulations for offshore sailing, including things like required equipment, the boat’s structure and training are the Offshore Special Regulations, known as offshore regs.

Front cover of the World Sailing Offshore Special Regs, aka the 'Offshore Regs.'

Front cover of the World Sailing Offshore Special Regs, aka the ‘Offshore Regs.’

This booklet-sized document contains these regulations promulgated by International Sailing Federation, ISAF, now called World Sailing. It covers all manner of particulars to do with getting to the finish in the same boat you started with and all the same crew you started with. It is EXTREMELY hard won information and a very informative read for anyone thinking of going maybe anywhere in a sailing boat.

It is however somewhat Euro-centric in that everything is cross-referenced to an ISO number. For the layman it is a bureaucratic black hole. To make things a bit easier for US sailors US Sailing started a few years ago to develop their own prescriptions for requirement for races in the US. The result is a document a normal person can read and defines the gear required for the boat for three categories of racing, not six, called by USSailing: the Safety Equipment Regulations (SER’s) and the three categories are Ocean, Coastal & Nearshore.

Finally the Bermuda Race Organizing Committee list their own requirements based on their very extensive research, surveys after each race and the vast experience in some very un-hospitable areas of the worlds oceans of the members of the CCA.

In the view of some the safety requirements for much of the Offshore Regs. are becoming more and more complex. I have over the past few years been told by at least two people I can think of that they are stopping doing offshore races due to the rigmarole and cost of the safety kit.

Regardless, the requirements for sails have generally remained pretty stable for several years. There are really only two principal changes to sails lately: Storm Jibs and Storm trysails manufactured after 1 Jan. 2014 are required to be ALL high visibility, usually orange, in color. So, the sail requirements for the Newport to Bermuda race are as follows.

There are three required sails and an assumed fourth one, the mainsail.


The three required sails are: a Storm Jib, a Storm Trysail and what is called a Heavy Weather Jib. These are very specifically defined in the safety equipment section of The mainsail has only one requirement and that is:

3.33.1 Reefing: A yacht shall have mainsail reefs capable of reducing the area of the sail by an amount appropriate for the weather conditions possible on the racecourse.

This phraseology is intended to push back to the owners and the master, the responsibilities for going to sea. This is in fact embedded in the Racing Rules of Sailing and RRS Rule 4 is here:


The responsibility for a boat’s decision to participate in a race or to continue racing is hers alone.

From a practical and seamanship perspective, contemplating sailing across this course on a boat with only one reef, would be a risk, way riskier than the reward of a few pounds less weight in the mainsail.

The Heavy Weather Jib (HWJ) is from a sailmaker’s perspective and design and engineering wise, are ‘merely” small, flat and heavily constructed jibs. But they must meet the rules for HWJs though which are-for the Newport to Bermuda Race:

3.33.3 Heavy Weather Jib:

A yacht shall carry a heavy weather jib (or heavy weather sail in a yacht with no forestay) of area not greater than 13.5% height of the fore-triangle squared.

In practice it turns out that on many, if not most boats an forestay sail, like the one seen on this Bristol 41-1 suffice as the Heavy Weather Jib but you should do the calculations or have your sailmaker do them, ideally with you.

Forestaysails commonly qualify as Heavy Weather Jib

Forestaysails commonly qualify as Heavy Weather Jib

A line item in the HWJ definition from World Sailing Offshore Regs is:

‘A heavy-weather jib (or heavy-weather sail in a boat with no forestay) with: area of 13.5% height of the foretriangle (IG) squared and a readily available means, independent of a luff groove, to attach to the stay.’

In practice this means grommets installed at suitable intervals in the luff of the sail immediately aft of the luff rope that enters into the headfoil on the boat.Thru these grommets may be passed lengths of line suitable for lashing the sail to the headstay in the event of damage to the foil.

The “alternative methods” of securing the sail to the stay has been edited out in the Bermuda race’s own rules. This now abandoned rule stems from the days of aluminum head foils being damaged by spinnaker poles bashing into them, rendering it impossible to get a sail up the foil. Today’s headfoils are made from plastic and spinnakers much less likely to be set on poles but at sea if something can fail, and this is everything, there must be a Plan B.

In the case of the HWJ, having your sailmaker install grommets up the luff so the sail can be secured to the foil (by short lengths of line premade for the purpose and stored in the emergency took kit, right?) is a very good idea. You can also leave the lines in the sail permanently because IF the foil fails AND you need to set this HWJ, having the lines already installed will be a lot easier than having a couple of crew sitting in the bow lacing the lines they the grommets for 30 minutes or so. And as a practical matter their presence will have zero impact on the performance of the sail for those thinking abut windage

Here is another Cooper TIP too. Backup grommets are something to think about for all headsails. Apart from the fact the head foil will not get un-busted when the breeze abates and having a way to set headsails is generally a good idea in an ocean race there is another utility made available by such grommets in the luff.

During the headsail changing process sails so equipped can have a length of light line woven back and forth, Dutchman like, through these grommets. The bottom end is made off with a figure eight knot so the line does not pass thru the grommets. All of this does a couple of things. It helps keep the luff of the sail forward in the flaking process. It offers a way to tie off the bulk of the forward end of the sail. This gives the crew at that end of the procedure a bit more freedom to wrestle the sail back into its turtle. If push comes to shove, a sail can be tied off to the boat at the forward end and it is perfectly possible for one man or woman to get a headsail into a turtle by themselves. Just ask anyone who did the sewer on a 12-meter, back in the day. Finally when changing back to this sail as the wind diminishes, the upper end of this line can be temporarily tied off until the sail is really ready to get hoisted. This makes it a bit harder for the (forward end of the) sail to go over the side.


Sail offshore long enough (and or sail with no reefs in the mainsail) and you WILL meet conditions that will require all your seamanship skills, those of your crew AND small sails. The Newport to Bermuda Race requirements for the storm sails are:

3.33.2 Storm Trysail:

A yacht shall carry a storm trysail, with the yacht’s sail number displayed on both sides, that can be set independently of the main boom, has an area less than 17.5% of “E” x “P”, and which is capable of being attached to the mast. Storm sails manufactured after 1/1/2014 must be constructed from a highly visible material. Commonly this is an orange, yellow or pink material.

Trysail sheeted to boom

Trysail sheeted to boom


Rugg J 105 Storm Try tied around the boomA trysail sheeted to the boom: The traditional sheeting method for trysails is to lead the sheets to the quarter blocks in the stern. This causes chafe, where the sheet passes over the life lines, results in a poor shape when the sail is eased, leaves a lot of sail flapping around in tacks or gybes or needs more people to perform these manouvers. A very viable alternative is to set the trysail off the boom as seen above. In this case a reef lines is used. HOw ever the sail is set one must be on constant guard for chafe.

3.33.4 Storm Jib:

A yacht shall carry a storm jib not exceeding 5% of the yacht’s “I” dimension squared, and equipped with an alternative means of attachment to the headstay in the event of a failure of the head foil. Storm sails manufactured after 1/1/2014 must be constructed from a highly visible material.

Storm sails built after 2014 are required to be a high visibility color.

Storm sails built after 2014 are required to be a high visibility color.

The decision to set a trysail or not (and how to lower and stow it, don’t forget) is largely driven by the size and type of boat and by extension the skills of the owners and crew. The age, physical dexterity, strength, skill, sailing ability, seamanship and experience are all factors in sail handling in these conditions. And the last two are not always the same as sailing skill. One magazine article cannot address the many variables in methods for using and lowering a trysail let alone the variables on the course.

I would strongly recommend practicing as often as you can with all the crew and especially in crappy, windy weather doing all the evolutions and especially reefing and headsail changes.

Frankly the forgoing requirements for racing boats present very sound information for anyone bound offshore. AND yes, I get that people don’t want to carry Storm Sails around but they have uses outside of conditions over 50 knots.

Next up, what sails do I NEED for the Bermuda races


12 meters and 6.5 meters

Moving boats, always at night.

Maybe it’s just me but I seem to spend a disproportinate amount of time moving, going to or leaving with boats, at night. Wednesday night was a classic of the genre. I moved the Mini up to the Hinckley Yacht Services yard in Portsmouth preparatory to erecting the shed around her and the Ranger so I can continue The Quest to get the Mini sailing again. The night was drizzly wet, misty, dank and generally raw. It was the kind of night to sit by the fire with a good who-dunnit and a glass of Shiraz. The dankness and the weak yellow flood lamps reminded me of the first time I saw the rebuilt 12-meter Australia, in July 1979.

Mini nad Ranger at Hinckley Yacht Services

The fellow who had recruited me to be the boat captain, Lee Killingworth and I drove into the industrial area in which the refit had been done. The shed was your basic industrial put-it-up-in-a-day steel shed. It and a few clones were inside a 10-foot tall wire mesh fence in a neighborhood populated with similar homages to the rigors of small business manufacturing

Mini at Hinckley Yacht Services

July is mid-winter in Australia and Perth is on the water. The prevailing weather is from the west and southwest and so brings the harsh storms blowing up from the Southern Ocean bringing lots of moisture with them. And it is cold, raw moisture.

There was no sign on our shed. Warren Jones the Man Who Made It All Happen, in 1980 and particularly in 1983, had wanted to keep the boat invisible where possible. The dark/fog/mist/drizzle atmosphere was winning the battle of light versus dark against the yellowish lamps purportedly illuminating the parking lot.


I opened the gate and we idled up to the side door of our building. I can remember that scene as though it was yesterday. Just the two of us, long disciples of the Aussie Battle to win the America’s Cup, the atmosphere was full of expectation. It felt like the beginning of something no one had ever done, beat the yanks in the America’s Cup.

Tonight, at Hinckley it was the same kind of wet, chill, dank, bleak night, something out of Dickens perhaps. I towed the Mini up the Burma Rd. to Hinckley and pulled in along side one of the huge sheds they have. These storage sheds are the larger brothers of the ones in Perth all those years ago. I wonder what it is with the lighting that goes with these sheds? It is always this pale anemic yellow. Weak enough that you feel if you looked at it too hard the light would just dribble away, mingling with the runnels of water covering the ground and and simply extinguish itself.

Again as in Perth, the whole scene reminded one of a 1930’s Raymond Chandler gangster novel. You know, something like…..

Mini at HYS

There were no headlights on the black shape as it inched closer. It looked like a Caddie, but with street lamps few and far between here, it was that kind of neighborhood, it was hard to be sure. Then again, at this time of the early morning who else was it gonna be? The President?

 In the dark it was hard to make out any particulars of the guy in the car. The one street lamp between him and the tenement was that sickly, anemic yellow color that the lamps down on the ship docks show. The car had stopped just outside the circle of yellow light drifting down from this lone lamp. The drizzle let up for a moment, but that really made no difference. The cloud cover was at about 3 feet anyway, so rain or not, everything was wet and the late fall air was chill. The entire scene was dank and depressing. At length he got out of the car.

He stood there, big and bulky, dense really, 250 lbs and 200 of it was not anywhere near his belt buckle. His hat was pulled down low over the eyebrows and the collar of his long black over coat turned up. The black of the coat matched the darkness of the street, as though they came from the same bin of blackness. So dressed, he was almost invisible outside that weak circle of yellow pinch-hitting for light. For fully a minute he stood quite motionless. He not so much looked around, but rather as if he was sniffing the air, taking in the mojo of the scene. If he were a cat, his whiskers would be twitching. At length who, or what ever, was at Twitch Control must have given him the all clear. He started walking, slowly with steady steps towards the decrepit and dim tenement.

There was no other human on the street but that was not a surprise. 2637 Broadview was the last, more or less inhabited, tenement on the block. It was so well known to the cops, they never did need the number. Just “Disturbance on Broadview”, said it all.

He stopped some feet from the door. Twitch, twitch. Slowly, very, very, slowly he unbuttoned his overcoat and pulled the lapels apart, just a smidge. He reached inside the overcoat and unbuttoned the three buttons on his suit coat. Very slowly, twitching all the while.

He raised his right hand up under his left armpit, and I don’t think he was reaching for his Lucky Strikes.

Mini in yellow light at HYS

It was that kind of night.

Mini at HYSSo here we go again. This time I have the Ranger AND the Mini going into the Vince’s Bush Boatyard Plastic Hoop Shed, albeit with 12 feet of extensions on it to accommodate the Ranger. Maybe after I get her done and sailing I will be able to move boat boats around in daylight, sunny, warm, you know, a normal kind of day for sailing…

Back in "The Day". On a moorinmg in Newport Harbour after the New ENgland Solo Twin, 2003

Back in “The Day”. On the mooring in Newport Harbour after the New England Solo Twin, 2003


Two boats, six hulls, zero fish


The latest from Spindrift 2 and IDEC as they rocket towards the Equator.


Jules Verne Trophy record attempt Day 4

And remember, Spindrift 2 is THE boat that presently holds the 45 day record. 

Position: 18 24.32’ N – 26 46.62’ W
274 miles ahead of the record holder, Banque Populaire V
Distance covered from the start: 2,254 miles
Distance traveled over 24 hours: 736.5 miles
Average speed over 24 hours: 30.7 knots

Sails: Two reefs in the mainsail, and the Solent
Area: Tradewinds of the Northern Hemisphere, Western Cape Verde, latitude of Dakar (Senegal)

 roughly the relative locations of the two tris and Henrik. Seems as though he is safe now

Roughly the relative locations of the two tris and Henrik.  Seems as though he is safe now.Spindrift 2 is to the north, IDEC  is to the south. Spindrift is over three hudred miles ahead of Banque Populaire, (that is her own pace,) for the same number of hours sailed.

Message from Dona Bertarelli:

Chatting over a coffee-grinder

“Isn’t it strange that we still haven’t seen any flying fish?” I ask Seb Audigane, who is at his post at the traveller, ready to ease off the sail immediately if the wind picks up. “It won’t be long,” he replies.

The water temperature indicator shows 22 degrees Celsius. Is it too hot or too cold for these small fish, whose wings allow them to leap out of the crest of the waves and fly several hundred metres on the water’s surface?

We’ve not seen many animals since we set off.

“We’ve not even seen any dolphins, yet we saw some at every training session on Spindrift 2,” I tell Seb.

“We’re going too fast for the dolphins,” he replies. “Only bluefin tuna can swim this fast.”

But unfortunately there aren’t many bluefin tuna, so they are a rare sight indeed. The bluefin tuna are currently listed as endangered species, so protecting them should be everyone’s responsibility. We should stop eating them to help stocks recover so that our grandchildren can see them, and perhaps also eat them.

At the current rate of consumption, there’ll be none left. Not even in aquariums, because these migratory fish travel hundreds of miles, crossing oceans at speeds of 80 km/h (50 mph).

The word tuna is derived from the Greek thuno, meaning to rush.

Image from Spindrift 2 racing, so credit to where/who ever they got it.

Image from Spindrift 2 racing, so credit to where/who ever they got it.

With torpedo-shaped streamlined bodies, Atlantic bluefin tuna are built for speed and endurance. They can even retract their fins to reduce drag, enabling them to swim through the water at incredibly high speeds. They are top ocean predators and voracious feeders, eating herring, mackerel, hake, squid and crustaceans. Unlike most fish they are warm-blooded and can regulate their temperature to keep core muscles warm during ocean crossings.

Their incredibly beautiful metallic blue topside and silver-white bottom help camouflage them from above and below, protecting them from killer whales and sharks, their main predators.

At 2-3 metres long, the Atlantic Bluefin is the largest species of tuna. One was reported to be 6 metres long! It’s incredible to think that they can dive deeper than 1 km.

When Bluefin is prepared as sushi it is one of the most valuable forms of seafood in the world. The species is listed as ‘near threatened’ on the IUCN red list. So let’s all think twice before buying some at our local markets. They might not be as cute as dolphins, but they are worth protecting!​

– See more at:


IDEC SPORT has kept up a very fast pace. Francis Joyon and his men are already off the Cape Verde Islands three days after setting sail from Ushant. The Equator is merely 1000 miles away and the record on this first stretch of the Jules Verne Trophy is set to be broken.


The record for the stretch from Ushant to the Equator

also held by Loïck Peyron and his crew on Banque Populaire V (Now Spindrift 2) since 27th November 2011 – is:

5 days, 14 hours, 55 minutes and 10 seconds.

At 0600hrs on Wednesday 25th November 2015,

IDEC SPORT was sailing at 32.9 knots at 17°32 North and 26°59 West, 90 miles West of the Cape Verde Islands. Bearing: south (201°). Lead over the record pace: 227 miles.

This long straight run will remain in the history books. The wind shadow of the Canaries is behind them and the steady NE’ly trade winds are blowing allowing IDEC SPORT to speed along at between 30 and 34 knots in the dark of night. This historic pace – two straight tacks down from Ushant –  has given us some figures which are bound to please the six men on board. For example, they have now covered more than 2000 miles since leaving Ushant. You read that right. 2000 miles in just three days and three hours. To give you an idea of what that means, if that pace continues, they would complete the voyage around the world in around thirty days, but we know that getting the time down to less than 45 days is going to be tricky.

ALREADY 2000 miles in their wake

First aerial images of IDEC SPORT maxi trimaran, skipper Francis Joyon and his crew, training off Belle-Ile, Brittany, on october 19, 2015 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / IDEC

Logically at this very fast pace, the lead over the record time has increased. It was over 220 miles at 0500hrs this morning with IDEC SPORT approaching the Cape Verde Islands, which they will leave to port. Yesterday evening, the big red trimaran sailed by Francis Joyon, Bernard Stamm, Alex Pella, Clément Surtel, Boris Herrmann and Gwénolé Gahinet overtook the point Banque Populaire had reached at the end of her third day of sailing during her record run.

This morning, we can say that IDEC SPORT is 8 or 9 hours ahead of Banque Populaire. That is a lot after just three days of sailing. Remembering that at the moment IDEC SPORT is covering on average 715 miles a day and that there are just 1000 miles left to the Equator, it is likely that the record from Ushant to the line separating the two hemispheres (5 days, 15 hours) will be beaten and with a huge advance.

IDEC position versus Crois du Sud

Croix du Sud to the north EAst, IDEC to the SW, traveling at over three times the pace of the Class 40 of Henrik Masekowitz

Croix du Sud to the north EAst, IDEC to the SW, traveling at over three times the pace of the Class 40 of Henrik Masekowitz

Solo with two boats

Joe Harris and Henrik Masekowitz are closing in on each other.

Joe Harris has been sailing for 10 days, Henrik for 12. They are both in the warmer climes now. Henrik has some fresh trades behind hm, while Joe is trying to get to the east against light headwinds.

It occured to me that they are both aiming for roughly the same crossing spot on the equator. Far enough east to give them some sea room too leeward vis a vie Brazil, yet not so far east as to be in the crummy wind area. For the purposes of this post I have put the crossing point as 30 degrees west, at the equator. The two screen shots below show Henrik has about 1350 miles to go and Joe has 1790. Hummmm

 Track and distance to go, roughly, for Henrik.

Track and distance to go, roughly, for Henrikto the Equator at 30 degrees west.

And for Joe, the angle is tighter and he has to be sailing upwind to get east at the moment. But we still have say 16 weelks to go….

Joe's track and distance to the Equator at 35 degrees West.

Joe’s track and distance to the Equator at 30 degrees west.

This is Joe’s update from 22nd


Status updated: 22 hrs and 52 mins ago (Mon, November 23 @ 20:43:12)

Hi-Not such a great 24 hours for Team Joey and GS2. Last night was a shit show of one major squall after the next, bringing major thunder, lightning, wind gusting up to 30kn and heavy downpours of rain upon your faithful captain. I was OK with the first couple of these, but then I became really wet and cold and the fun kinda went out of it. It was also a bit scary to be perfectly honest, although the lightning was up higher in the sky and not actually landing in the water. I remember once doing a solo delivery back from Bermuda and I got caught in a huge thunder and lightning storm (in the Gulf Stream of course- my nemesis), where I was pretty damn sure my mast was going to get hit by lightning and blow a hole in the bottom of the boat. With no other boats around, if you were a lightning bolt, why wouldn’t you hit the tall shiny metal object all by itself in the middle of the ocean?? Anyway, it missed me then and it missed me last night, thank God.So the rest of the day has been spent sailing in light air, upwind- something that GS2 does not really like to do. This causes me a lot of stress because I think I should be able to solve the problem- except I can’t- because it kinda “is what it is” as they say. The boat will go upwind properly in 12 knots of wind or more, but in 12 knots or less, we get sticky, because the boat is so wide and flat. And tonight we have 7 knots. Awesome.

I hear that fella Henrik the German is coming down the pike past the Canary and Cape Verde Islands and is enjoying fast trade wind sailing- the bastard. He has a much better downwind sailing angle as he approaches the Doldrums and Equator from Europe vs. the US. Just a fact. I should have a more favorable angle on the return leg from the doldrums to Newport in the Spring.

Break- break- more wind now, although still right on the nose, causing me to aim closer to the “bulge of Brazil” than I would like. Hopefully the wind will come astern more and strengthen tomorrow, so I can aim a little further East. For now, GS2 has undergone a warm weather transformation- with all the cold weather gear stowed away and the food and gear better organized for upwind sailing and life at a 20-degree heel and warmer temps.

Reading “The Martian” and loving it- the perfect book for me right now.

Have a good night-