Boating NZ : FREE TO READ February 2014
When their catamaran dismasted at night, en route from Tonga to New Zealand, Damian Clark and Kerry Lorimer had to make brutal decisions to save their boat. Offshore cr uising Words and photos by Kerr y Lorimer A bone-jarring crash was the first sign that something had gone horribly wrong. Attheendofa season’s cruising in Tonga, we’d left Neiafu bound for New Zealand aboard our Catana 521 catamaran, Sel Citron, and had logged 241 nautical miles in our first 24 hours. As darkness fell, we’d reduced sail and were sailing comfortably with double-reefed main and about half the jib rolled out. It was around 9.30pm and Damian was on watch when the crash sounded throughout the boat. I was off-watch, asleep in bed. I grabbed my jacket and safety harness as I ran outside. Damian was already on deck. There was a moment of stunned disbelief. We knew immediately what had happened: we’d lost the mast – but the tangle of sheets, reefing lines, sails, broken glass, shards of carbon and twisted metal took longer to comprehend. It was dark. We had been romping along on a beam reach at 10 knots in a 2.5-metre swell. Now, it seemed suddenly still. As far as we could tell in the darkness, the mast had broken into three pieces, with the base lying across the deck and the mainsail and jib lying in the water off the starboard side. The three sections were still tethered together by the mainsail, running through the luff track and held at the top by the main halyard. It was still blowing 25 knots. The mast had fallen to leeward, and the boat was being blown downwind, over the top of the wreckage. The middle section of the mast was twisted back toward the boat, the jagged end of it ramming into the hull with a terrible grinding noise. It was being driven by the wind and waves, and the downward drag of the top two-thirds of the mast, which was still loaded with the bulk of the mainsail, was sinking under the boat and in danger of fouling daggerboards, propellers and rudders. It takes longer to read this than it took us to size it all up and realise that our first priority was to avoid being holed by the broken mast section. Instinct says: "Just start cutting – get rid of it all as quickly as possible." But amid the chaos, we had to execute every step of the process in a logical order. Otherwise, we'd make the situation even worse than DISMASTED 925 miles from home 38 Boating New Zealand February 2014 Feature_Sel Citrion_dismasting_Feb14.indd 38 17/01/2014 2:05:45 p.m.
FREE TO READ March 2014