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Old 11-09-2022, 10:06   #1
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Crash Gybe!

We are on our way down the west coast of the US. We had a crash gybe in the middle of the night (don't these things always happen in the middle of the night?) Fortunately, no one was hurt and we managed to get control of the boom & mainsail despite the traveler car being destroyed.

I think this might be interesting for others - there are some learning points here - the biggest one is that a boom brake needs to be backed up with the line on a winch and not just through a clutch. Feel free to ask any questions you want - I'll try to answer

Disclaimer - Vinni and I have been at sea for over 6 years now - we've made every mistake you can think of, and probably quite a few that lie outside the boundaries of imagination. Here's the story, pics at the bottom. One pic shows the stripped brakeboom line. The other shows the second juryrig we made to keep the boom centered.

WE managed to limp into SF a day or so later on only a poled out genua.
Just so we have something positive to boast about - sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge meant that we had made landfall in both NYC and SF - on the same boat - not too many cruisers can say that.

That evening, as we approach the critical point of rounding Cape Mendocino, the wind freshens; blowing 20-25 knots and the swells rise to 2-3 meters. It is still comfortable sailing, our mainsail is in the second reef. Capri blasts along making 7-8 knots.
We got 2/3’s of the way round the Cape before the acceleration winds began to pick up. It is now gale force (30+ knots) and the swells have risen to 3-4 meters (12-14 feet). Worse, we have to gybe. Carsten hates to gybe at night. It is difficult for him to orient himself out on the foredeck in the dark when he has to take the poled out genua in from the one side and pole it out to the other. Adding in that the deck is rolling and pitching in the high waves, the wind is shrieking, and he is, as he says, “not a happy camper”. But there is no way around it, we have to gybe to get closer to shore and out of the swells that are growing larger by the minute.
Despite Carsten cursing up on deck, the gybe is uneventful. Carsten takes over the watch and I go below for some well-deserved sleep and a chance to get warm again.
I wake when I hear a huge crash above my head and the Capri jerks around like a top. We’ve had a crash gybe. A big wave came from the side, throwing Capri around. Carsten could do nothing and the wind got behind the mainsail. Carsten says, “Shit, you need to come up right away”, as he shines a flashlight up on the sail to see how bad things are.
“We have a major problem”, he adds.
We have a boombrake mounted to prevent a crash gybe. Unintentional gybes can easily happen when you are sailing at 150-160 to the wind and the waves are running 4 meters. Our boombrake is supposed to either act as a preventer stopping the gybe or at least act as a brake, slowing the entire process down so everything happens in slow motion and there is no damage. Other boats have lost their entire rig in a crash gybe.
So how did it happen if the boombrake is supposed to prevent it? The line from the boombrake goes through a clutch that keeps the line taut. With the line taut, the boombrake allows no movement of the boom. When we look, we see that the outer covering of the line has been peeled back like a banana peel. Once this happened, the clutch can’t hold on to the inner core, which is not as large in diameter as the line with the outer covering. The line then simply slipped through the clutch and the boom gybed.
So why didn’t we also have a preventer mounted? A preventer is another line that is stretched from the back of the boom to a point far forward on the deck, making it impossible for the boom to move. First, because the boombrake should function as well as a preventer. In fact, the boombrake DID function. The reason the outer covering of the line stripped off was that the boombrake was holding the boom (and sail) against the tremendous forces applied by the wind. Secondly, Carsten feels we have so many lines running up on the deck that he is in danger of tripping (and potentially falling off the boat) if we have many more.
What could we do? Not only had the boombrake line stripped (that was a minor problem to fix), worse, the shackle on our traveler was broken in half. This was a serious problem. Without the traveler, there is no place to hook the boom.
To put it mildly, we were in deep ****.
The boom was slammed tight up against the shrouds and held, plastered there, by the wind. We couldn’t sail with it like that. Our first order of priority was to somehow get it back to the middle so we could drop the sail or figure something else out. Until we did that, we could not control the boat. Worse, if a wave threw Capri in the wrong direction, the wind would get behind the sail and we would have another crash gybe, just in the other direction. This time there would be no brake at all. The first gybe, the line covering stripping and the shackle breaking on the traveler must have lessened the speed and force of the gybe.
Carsten acts quickly, diving into the cockpit locker and coming up with a long line with a carabiner hook in the middle. He dons a lifeline and crawls out on the deck as the waves crash over him. I’m desperately trying to hold Capri on a course so we don’t get another crash gybe in the other direction. If Carsten gets hit by the boom, he’ll die. Carsten manages to get the carabiner hooked into the block on the mainsail sheet and then he runs them back to a winch (through the genua car blocks) on either side. Now he can crank in the sail to the middle and control it.
Carsten then ties the mainsail block to the remnants of the traveler car with a length of Dynema. Dynema is ultra-strong rope. It will hold anything, almost no matter what the load. Meanwhile I’ve tried to lay Capri with her stern directly up in the wind. The reader has to understand here that in these high waves, it is simply not possible to turn Capri into the wind. If we try that, we risk broaching, or worse, a knockdown.
Now I’m unlucky. A freak wave crashes in from the side, throwing Capri around and we have a new crash gybe. The soft shackle of Dynema Carsten has rigged, parts with a pistol shot as the line is cut by a sharp edge. Carsten curses up a storm, some of it aimed at me (fair enough). Not only did the crash scare the hell out of him, he almost lost a finger as the lines tightened. Fortunately, it was only “mashed”. Carsten dons his lifeline once again and crawls out on deck to retrieve the boom that is now plastered up against the rigging. Same procedure as before.
We’ve got the boom centered again. Carsten mounts a new and heavier soft shackle in a different way so there is no way it can be cut. We agree that we need to drop the mainsail and continue on the poled out genua. The mainsail, of course, doesn’t drop by itself in this heavy of a wind. Someone has to go on deck and haul it down by hand. Once more Carsten grabs his lifeline and crawls up through the waves running over the deck. This time he ties himself to the mast so he can use both hands to haul the sail down. We’ve agreed that we can run only a reefed genua. We roll the genua halfway out and we’re making 6-7 knots. The waves are still enormous.
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Old 11-09-2022, 10:36   #2
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Re: Crash Gybe!

Thanks for posting that.

Can you explain more about "manages to get the carabiner hooked into the block on the mainsail sheet " - I can't visualize what you mean. Also, do you have end-boom sheeting or mid-boom? I'm trying to figure out how I could do something similar to control the boom if the need arises.

BTW, I'm pretty sure "Distant Shores" showed the results of a crash gybe in one of their videos and their preventer had snapped, so nothing is guaranteed.
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Old 11-09-2022, 11:24   #3
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Re: Crash Gybe!

Quote:
Originally Posted by leecea View Post
Thanks for posting that.

Can you explain more about "manages to get the carabiner hooked into the block on the mainsail sheet " - I can't visualize what you mean. Also, do you have end-boom sheeting or mid-boom? I'm trying to figure out how I could do something similar to control the boom if the need arises.

BTW, I'm pretty sure "Distant Shores" showed the results of a crash gybe in one of their videos and their preventer had snapped, so nothing is guaranteed.
The block from tje mainsail sheet that normally is attached to the traveler was still hanging on the sheet. I hooked the carabiner into the shackle hanging from the bottom of the bloc

We have midboom sheeting

Yes even prebenters can snap in a bad enough gybe
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Old 11-09-2022, 12:20   #4
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Re: Crash Gybe!

Quote:
Originally Posted by leecea View Post
Thanks for posting that.

Can you explain more about "manages to get the carabiner hooked into the block on the mainsail sheet " - I can't visualize what you mean. Also, do you have end-boom sheeting or mid-boom? I'm trying to figure out how I could do something similar to control the boom if the need arises.

BTW, I'm pretty sure "Distant Shores" showed the results of a crash gybe in one of their videos and their preventer had snapped, so nothing is guaranteed.
The strongest force occurs when the boom has already started to swing. The momentum is immense. And the leverage is much greater against the mainsheet and traveler (and boom brake) if they are positioned at the mid boom.

I think it is critical that two things are done to be able to stop the boom from coming across if the wind gets behind the mainsail:
  1. A preventer from the end of the boom to a strong point forward (AT THE WIDE PART OF THE BOAT) then back to a winch.
  2. Putting plenty of pressure on the preventer so that the boom has no slack to get started moving or get any velocity going.

If the boom is secured in its position and the preventer has a good angle and is attached to strong points then even if the wind gets behind the sail the leech of the main sail may only fold over and while the wind will fill the back of the sail the boom hopefully not build any momentum and will hold in its position.

Of course this can still lay you over, but things can be managed. (You slowly release the preventer and let the boom come across, the recovery the steering and get things going properly.

This has happened on our boat, in about 26kts true (that's the last I remember seeing, the wind was building) and I was careless when I took over the helm from the autopilot and I turned down too far and got the wind behind the main.

The main filled from the back and rounded the boat up (rounded down, technically speaking), then pinned us on our side. But the preventer held, everything was calm, except we were on our side, completely.

My other mistake (other than carelessly turning the boat and jibing) was having the preventer on a cleat instead of a winch. It was hard to release, like impossible, with one hand while I still held the tiller with the other. Judy came up and we got things handled but not before the mainsail ripped in half.

The key point I want to reiterate: The preventer goes from the end of the boom to the widest part of the boat, not to the bow. Some people run the preventer to the bow but then, when the boom is being released, you lose the angle and you lose all leverage.

I'm not going to comment on the boom brake because I have little experience with them but having it in the middle of the boom adds greatly to the pressure on it.

I guess a third point is, be careful when sailing on autopilot. The wind can change and put you close to a gybe.
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Old 11-09-2022, 14:16   #5
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Re: Crash Gybe!

Interesting event, and thanks for posting it.

One thought comes to mind: was the brake line perhaps a bit old? I've noticed that double braid line, as it ages and suffers UV damage to the cover, looks fine but the cover is substantially weakened and tears/chafes more readily. We've had line that looked OK have the cover shred... and since the clutch grips the cover, perhaps that was why it failed when stressed. Normally the clutches will hold such loads without slipping... consider how much stress is on a Genoa halyard clutch, a place where you would notice any slippage pretty quickly.

At any rate, be glad that it happened so near to a location with multiple sources for replacement bits and advice.

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Old 11-09-2022, 15:51   #6
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Re: Crash Gybe!

First, let me say, sorry the Cape Mendocino gale got you. It is a well known "bad spot" to norther Calif. ocean sailors. I am so glad no one was seriously injured, and sorry about the mashed finger.

Assuming you have both primary and secondary winches, instead of the "Boom Brake", you can rig double preventers. One of the great things about them is that for only one more line on deck, you can control all gybes. And when the shackle on the traveler breaks, or the boom breaks, you can control what is left of it with the preventers, and center it so that it will not flail from side to side.

We've done this when the shackle broke, when the traveler blocks broke, and even just for centering the boom so as to lower boom loads by avoiding overtightening the main sheet at anchor.* Ours are attached about 1/3 of the way aft on our boom, [just aft of the vang attachment] to a block forward, right by the capshroud, then led aft to the secondaries. The one on the same side as the boom is used like a single preventer tackle, with the benefit that in a seaway, it is easy to ease it across fast as we gybe, and then set the one on the new side.

We keep them led and ready to use, and we usually use the autopilot to gybe, so that one of us eases the 17 ft. boom across, and the other is already beginning to set the preventer on the new side, all done from the safety of the cockpit. We roll up the headsail before gybing, then set it on the new gybe. Yes, there are lines to avoid on deck, but the advantages with a big mainsail of having the dual preventers are enough to make us put up with the extra line per side.

Our dinghy is out of commission right now, but in a month or so, when our house-sit is over, we'll be back on board, and glad to take pics, if you'd like, Carsten and Vinni, if you'd like to try it, it's only one more line than the boom brake and you could probably sell that on. Enjoy San Francisco, guys.

Ann

*That overtightening led to cracking the boom so that later it broke in a crash gybe, but that's another story. We could tell from inspecting the boom that the crack had a recent and new cracking as well as older.
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Old 11-09-2022, 16:00   #7
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Re: Crash Gybe!

Hi ann

We frequently do set preventers. From end boom through a cleat. But our foredeck has a poled out genny set in bridle. A dinghy laud upside diwn and tied down. 6 jerry cans a side. On the way up front I aLready have to step over the mainsail sheets sometimes a genua sheet

In the dark and heavy seas this is a major obstacal course the fewer lines the better
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Old 11-09-2022, 16:26   #8
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Re: Crash Gybe!

Interesting. I've heard many stories of travelers and preventers failing, but this is the first case of the boom brake breaking a line. I have heard the story and seen the images of a boom break causing a boom failure when used as a preventer.

a. It seems the boom brake system is somewhat under engineered for the task of serving as semi-preventer. For those that do not know, a brake is mounted about at about 30% of the boom length, sometimes to the same fitting as the vang but generally a short distance aft.

b. In jammers, sometimes it is mostly the strength of the cover that matters. Unfortunately, the cover is often worn by the jammer.

I can see the reasoning. Preventers serve a purpose, but the idea of using a boom brake as a releaseable preventer is attractive. In some way it makes even more sense than its use as a brake. But the problem is That its location increases the force by about 4-5 times over a standard boom-end preventer, which we know can sometimes fail. If it had not broken, is it possible that the force applied mid-boom could have resulted in a boom failure? I think it is possible. I think it is actually very likely, and that would have been much worse.

You may want to consider a nylon traveler line (climbing rope is perfect for this, very nice to handle). That would have greatly reduced the force on the traveler, possibly preventing failure.

The bottom line is that when carrying way more sail than required off the wind bad stuff can happen. It's exciting but not safe. And a boom brake is not a preventer. It should never be winched down so tight as to prevent a jibe.


As for rigging a preventer to the beam of the boat instead of the bow... there have been a number of accidents suggesting that is a very, very bad idea. I'm sure it depends on the boat and the details. https://www.morganscloud.com/2018/10...that-can-kill/
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Old 11-09-2022, 16:39   #9
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Re: Crash Gybe!

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Interesting. I've heard many stories of travelers and preventers failing, but this is the first case of the boom brake breaking a line.


a. It seems the boom brake system is somewhat under engineered for the task of serving as semi-preventer. For those that do not know, a brake is mounted about at about 30% of the boom length, sometimes to the same fitting as the vang but generally a short distance aft.



b. In jammers, sometimes it is mostly the strength of the cover that matters. Unfortunately, the cover is often worn by the jammer.



I can see the reasoning. Preventers serve a purpose, but the idea of using a boom brake as a releaseable preventer is attractive. In some way it makes even more sense than its use as a brake. But the problem is That its location increases the force by about 4-5 times over a standard boom-end preventer, which we know can sometimes fail. If it had not broken, is it possible that the force applied mid-boom could have resulted in a boom failure? I think it is possible.


You may want to consider a nylon traveler line (climbing rope is perfect for this, very nice to handle). That would have greatly reduced the force on the traveler, possibly preventing failure.



The bottom line is that when carrying way more sail than required off the wind bad stuff can happen. It's exciting but not safe.
Well you are correct in your musings but allow me to bring some more data to the party

1- we were already in the third reef on the main. I cheerfully admit that we shoud have dropped the main and just run on the jib ( as we did after the incident

2- our boombrake is mounted about 2/3s back on the boom. Specifically to reduce loads. It is mounted aft of the mainsail sheet blocks going to the traveler

3- in the future I will be more wary of the potential UV effects on our lines. I am not sure what if any contrbutory effects UV might have had. But I will probably change the line every two years from now on

Carsten
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Old 11-09-2022, 21:11   #10
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Re: Crash Gybe!

Carsten, Vinni:

I'm very glad you are both alright, and I thank you for telling your story so lucidly. There is much to learn from it!

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Old 12-09-2022, 00:06   #11
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Re: Crash Gybe!

Quote:
Interesting. I've heard many stories of travelers and preventers failing, but this is the first case of the boom brake breaking a line. I have heard the story and seen the images of a boom break causing a boom failure when used as a preventer.
TW, as I read the post the brake line did not break. The cover shredded and then the clutch could not hold on the core... a quite different prospect. Had the cover not failed (and I do suspect UV damage there) the outcome would have been rather different: the brake would have functioned as designed and eased the boom across (maybe!).

And with respect to using a preventer that leads from mid boom to amidships on the deck, well, we've used such a system full time on our last three boats, logging over 150K miles collectively with many ocean passages and no disasters so far. One broken boom on the current boat (~68,000 miles), and that was indeed from a prevented gybe (a katabatic gust from ~ 120 degrees away from the prevailing light wind with the full main set). Inspection revealed a pre-existing crack at the aft end of the reinforcement around the vang attachment, likely due to us over tightening the boom down against the rigid vang when not under way.

At any rate, we recognize that the mid boom loads can be high, but feel that having the vang/preventers rigged continuously makes that risk acceptable. We always set the preventers when the wind is aft of the beam, simply because it is so easy and quick. Few folks do so with conventional preventers 'cause it ain't easy or quick to do so.

So, I don't think it is always a "very, very bad idea", at least as we practice the art.

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Old 12-09-2022, 01:42   #12
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Re: Crash Gybe!

I broke a boom years ago in a broach where the end dipped in the water but the mid boom preventer held it in place. So my current setup is a short strop from the end to the mid boom where it joins an elastic bungee cord from the gooseneck - this holds it in place. I clip the preventer to this and run it to the bow and back aft. If I’m doing regular short gybes I’ll rig a port and starboard line so it’s easy to reset after the gybe but usually only one and swap over. Takes < 1 min to reset.
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Old 12-09-2022, 01:50   #13
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Re: Crash Gybe!

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The key point I want to reiterate: The preventer goes from the end of the boom to the widest part of the boat, not to the bow. Some people run the preventer to the bow but then, when the boom is being released, you lose the angle and you lose all leverage.
I don't understand the mechanics of this arrangement, yet, but need to learn.

If bringing back the preventer from the end of the boom to the widest part of the boat then the line is attached to the hull more or less directly below the boom or perhaps somewhat forward (boat no longer widest there but surely the preventer should be attached to the boat forward of the boom?). Regardless, the ability of the preventer to stop the boom moving in first instance is limited and only starts to have some effect once the boom is amidships. Maybe that is the idea? Allow the boom to start moving and then slow it as it moves across the boat? And how does that work together with the railing - presumably the preventer is positioned entirely outside the railing but then as the boom moves across the preventer will need to go over the railing which would surely do some damage there.

My standard so far is to run all the way to the bow and attach to the strong points (cleats) there. This will prevent initial movement but if not very tight then, should the boom move towards the centre, will quickly lose the ability/leverage to restrain the boom.
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Old 12-09-2022, 08:35   #14
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Re: Crash Gybe!

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Originally Posted by carstenb View Post
Well you are correct in your musings but allow me to bring some more data to the party

1- we were already in the third reef on the main. I cheerfully admit that we shoud have dropped the main and just run on the jib ( as we did after the incident

2- our boombrake is mounted about 2/3s back on the boom. Specifically to reduce loads. It is mounted aft of the mainsail sheet blocks going to the traveler

3- in the future I will be more wary of the potential UV effects on our lines. I am not sure what if any contrbutory effects UV might have had. But I will probably change the line every two years from now on

Carsten

Didn't mean to criticize on reefing state. ALL of us have waited too long and regretted it. That was more of a reminder to self.


If the brake was mounted 2/3 back, that sounds like it was installed incorrectly (please correct me). Moving it farther aft than recomended to reduce loads will actually increase loads and impare functions. It must be mounted EXACTLY where specified. https://www.walderweb.com/how-to-ins...brake/?lang=en




Climbers are well aware of the cover-peal problem, as it relates to acsenders. It is well known that falling on a cam reduces the strength of the rope by about 2/3 in an impact load. So you make a VERY good point about jammers, one that is important to bring forward.


Although the line did not break, the cover slipping allowed so much slack that the brake released. Typically just a few inches of slack will do this. Some of the followers may not be familiar with how a boom brake functions.


I wonder if the boom break actually increased the impact on the traveller, by delaying the movement of the boom until the boat had turned a little farther. An unintended consequence.



Another takeaway may be that a boom brake should never be used as a preventer. It should never be hauled down much more than in maximum brake setting. If that had been the practice, the boom would have jibed, probably without damamge. But I don't think Waller mentions this.


[Yes, I have tested a number of boom brake designs, but I have not used them extensively. I find them intriguing for singlehanders that would like more control, but for who rigging a preventer and releasing after an accidental jibe may be asking a bit much. You pull a single line and a very rough jibe is prevented. But I never found them useful for easier routine jibes; it was easier to manage the traveler and mainsheet than to fool around with finding the correct tension setting. Still, very interesting.]
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Old 12-09-2022, 09:41   #15
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Re: Crash Gybe!

You raise some intetesting points TW. Why would installing the boombrake further sft increase the load? Normally we say the further aft on the boom the lesser the load. Re end boom versus german mailsail sheeting

The boom brake we have is a dutchman. While it has been 6 years since I installed it. I do not recall it saying not to install it further back. The instructions were to get as much angle as possible on it. Ours is anchored on blocks mounted on our midship cleats. I don’t like the idea of mounting on the chain plates even though Dutchman recommends this

Re wingsails recommendstion of tying the preventer to the widest place on the boat. Indeed we had them there many times but run into the issue of the rails. Tying to a midship cleat mean going through the guard rsil. Not ideal in my opinion
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