I conisder Hank's response to be not only well-written, but extremely measured in the circumstances. In spite of Gregor's hyperbolic 'response' attacking himself and the crew; and, in spite of the fact that the boat, as delivered, had serious leaks
and and an improperly engineered/inadequate steering
system that necessitated their rescue
at sea, he continues to be supportive of the Alpha 42 and its build in general.
What we do know is this:
1. It is uncontroverted that the skipper
insisted upon and followed the advice of a well-known weather-router prior to their departure.
2. The skipper
had extensive experience in making that passage
at that time of the year.
3. The skipper (who is also a rigger by trade) had re-riigged the headsail sheet blocks/leads so as to overcome the original failure in that regard. Fortunately we have photos to support Hank with this contention.
4. The skipper made serious efforts to attempt to repair the disabled steering
. The photos corroborate the replacement of the broken pin which connects the rudder head
to the rudder stock with an allen key. Indeed, there seems to be blood splatters in the area of that repair which no doubt speak to the difficulties of making that repair. Afterall, bear in mind that to at least some degree, the stock would continue to move so as to make drilling and insertion of a larger pin extremely difficult.
5. The description of all aboard was that, in spite of their efforts at a repair, the one rudder was seized at an angle and the other merely spun on the rudder stock (suggesting faliure of joint between the rudder stock and the plates within the rudder).
6. There can be no doubt that the angled rudder would make steering almost impossible. In spite of that, when conditions permitted, Hank was able to make some foward progress by adjusting sail trim to keep her clawing her way forward on a close-reach. Sadly, the prevailing winds meant that they could not make Bermuda
or any other landfall safely in that way.
7. Their request of the Coast Guard was not for a helicoptor rescue
, but rather to ask that a ship be diverted to their location.
What we also know (as evidence by the photos) was that the steering system was substantially under-engineered/built. Can anyone imagine any steering system on a boat designed for even near-shore sailing, that:
1. Used only a short pin to attach the rudder head to the rudder stock?
2. That had no dedicated rudder stops?
3. That on a new boat, had the internal stainless steel
rudder plates able to be broken off the rudder stock? Keep in mind, this is a new boat and internal corrosion
could not have been a factor.
Can anyone accept Gregor's assertion that the leaks
had been repaired by applying caulking, as Hank points out, in sub-freezing temperatures? Particularly since Gregor himself acknowledged the need for changes in subsequent hulls in order to remedy the problem?
Considering both Hank's reply and the weather
information already referred to in this thread, can anyone accept Gregor's assertions about the tortuous weather
he experienced in his test-sail? Or was that simply more hyperbole intended to cast aspersions on the capability of the skipper and crew? In this context, Hank's acknowlegement that the weather must have 'felt' that cold during the test-sail is more than fair.
My wife and I recently had the pleasure of crewing
with Hank on a sail from NYC
. I can say that at all times Hank was professional, knowlegeable and conservative in his approach to the passage
. Although in an earlier thread he had been criticized about the fact that, after the decision to abandon ship, the owne's had opened up and they had all imbibed a good bottle of wine, can anyone truly blame them in the circumstances? Does anyone truly believe that a shared bottle of wine would have led to intoxication that could in any way interfere with their ultimate rescue? Indeed, I can say that while there was liquor on board during our passage, Hank insists upon a 'dry ship' while underway.
He also insists, prior to departure, that all crew are aware of the location of all thru-hulls/sea cocks (and their were plugs at the ready by all of them). He also:
- would bear-off during meal preparation to assist in crew comfort and safety
- insist that any crew going forward be tethered to the jack-lines (admonishing one crew member
who went forward in relatively benign conditions on the leeward, rather than the windward side, as it was a "bad practise").
- he also tended to reef down early on the first sign of increasing winds ( cloud formations, barometer readings, gusts), rather than wiating for the weather to actually worsen.
Over the course of the trip I had many converstaions with Hank and was duly impressed with his experience (including the prior steering failures/loss of the rig that he referred to), but also his ingenuity in being able to bring those boats home safely under jury rigs, etc.
My wife and I would gladly join Hank on any voyage and would highly recommend him to anyone who is need of an experienced, serious, intelligent (as evidenced by his respone), safety-conscious delivery
skipper. It is unfortunate that while Hank has chosen to take the 'high road' with respect to this incident (incluiding for so long remaining silent in the face of unfair criticism from arm-chair critics), he has now had his well-deserved reputation sullied by the manufacturer of an inadequately engineered/built vessel.