I probably would not be
here but for in-mast furling.
It was a Hood
Stoway, so it was relatively undeveloped, immature technology, and to cap it, not well suited to the boat. The drive was woefully underspecified (a line-driver winch, which I would have thought marginal on a 40 footer, was fitted to a 52 footer)
Worst of all, there was NO backup: no bevel gearbox
at the bottom end, which you could plug
a winch handle directly into. Just an endless loop of undersized braid, running around an undersized line-driver winch, on a cobbled-up mounting so the whole winch slid and wobbled along a track, so the line could be tensioned.
What's to like?
This is what's to like: when we got caught shorthanded in a desperate situation with a mini tropical revolving storm which built quicker than we could respond, we lived to tell the tale.
We got our first inkling of problems around dawn when we came on watch, and a bad feeling about the signs, but had problems getting rid of the heads'ls. We were cheesed off with the previous watch for not alerting us earlier, or asking for a second opinion , but I know what it can be like in the graveyard shift: things sneak up while you're zonked and muddling along, and hindsight is notorious for turning up late.
Anyway, we started behind the eight ball because they had not properly briefed us about problems they'd been having with the heads'ls, as a result of which, and the dramatic arrival of the storm, we ended up still with FULL main with the wind already double the maximum the boat (with that amount of sail) could realistically be asked to stand up to. Worse news: it was still building quickly.
Mercifully, the FULL main was actually an anaemic, underpowered and depowered main, typical Hood
build for a Stoway rig: flat as a cupboard door, hollow leech and foot, (negative roach). The mast on that boat was also to far forrard, to my eye.
It all suddenly looked pretty damn good, though, even in that strange lighting
I've never seen before or since.
was light (alu) and low wetted surface (minimal fin, big spade, narrow waterline beam, U shaped bow sections), so we had that going for us as well.
We also had searoom in unlimited supply, so we had been running off since the moment we realised we had a serious problem.
So ... we used a trick I learned from a racing skipper
when I was still a kid: early for the (downwind) start, in a lightish offshore
race, he had me grind the boom into the middle of the boat. We were trimmed for lying head
to wind, but heading DDW with minimal drive.
And this, luckily, worked for us in the building phase of the TRS, now with gusts up to 60 knots True, reduced by the fact that the boat was simultaneously planing (not surfing) up to 14 knots
Essentially the extra drive (over and above "bare poles") was limited to the 'skin friction' drag of the sail, because the projected area was as near as dammit zero.
But this made the boat controllable, until and unless the leech moved two feet sideways in the wrong direction, the wind crossed to the other side of the sail, and the heeling force was suddenly equal and opposite to the previous, steady state value.
Which, I'm pretty sure (and was not keen to be proved right), would have broached us into a cartwheel. It certainly would have had us swimming in the cockpit.
The helmsman was "in the zone". I have never known someone rise to a challenge like that boy did. He was a fit athlete, and he wasn't moving a muscle, but he was rather exhausted afterwards.
There were only three of us on deck and nobody could be spared to go down and bang heads and get more. The rotten sods were pretending to be asleep.
So us remaining two started carefully grinding that sail into the mast, and it was REALLY hard, partly because of the friction (the sail was on the wrong 'gybe', and despite its flatness and being ALMOST amidships, that made it bear hard on the side of the mast slot). So we had to substitute a two-man winch handle and both heave on it up to, and beyond, our somewhat puny Buster Bloodvessel limits, just to get the thing to move an inch.
... and partly because of a countervailing consideration: if the continuous line, or the winch, broke, we were cooked.
I say that because (for reasons I won't go into just now) the boat was temporarily in a precarious situation, offering unfettered opportunity for water
from the cockpit to get below. If we spun out at that speed and tripped over our deep keel
, the boat would sink almost immediately.
But the main inched into the mast, and the needle of the anemometer bent further around the peg (I thing the maximum it read was 70) and by the time we had most of it away, the wind hit the maximum which I would guess was 80 across the deck, and started to drop back.
- - - -
So I was a convert to the concept
, if not the execution, of in-mast furling. It is, however, hopeless for light weather
sails, as has been thoroughly traversed here.
My dream expedition boat would (and hopefully, will) have a full hoist heavy main which will double as a storm trysail, negative roach, furling inside the mast with STRONG furling gear
The light mainsail, good for (and normally put away at) twenty knots but marginal for thirty, will be a modernised sliding gunter fat head, with a vertical leech, full length battens, and will furl around a horizontal mandrel.
This is not easy to arrange but I've pretty much cracked it, at the concept
level and most of the detail, I think.
But it would not be a commercially attractive product, I also think.