Valentine’s Chute-Out Aftermath
Rough days always have casualties
Our adventures Saturday didn't end when the racing did. We headed for harbor, and we prepared to drop the sails.
We had a bit of a glitch dropping the jib – when Pat had rigged the boat, he had run the jib halyard afoul of the boom vang line, something that isn't a problem when the boom vang is slack, but that was a problem this time, since Applegal had put on a lot of vang to keep the mainsail under control in the rough conditions. Once we slacked the vang, we were able to get the jib down.
The mainsail, however, proved to be another problem altogether. On most Etchells, there's a clip at the top of the mast, and on the main halyard, there's a T-bar that's designed to go into that clip. The idea is that the clip holds up the sail, so there doesn't have to be tension on the halyard within the mast that interferes with the ability of the mast to bend according to conditions. In practice, that clip causes a lot of difficulty, because it often jams, making it hard to unlatch the T-bar and drop the sail.
Black Magic has such a clip at the top of the mast, although it had never given us trouble unlatching when we wanted it to unlatch. However, with the mainsail that we have been using lately, the clip hasn't been an issue – we had never been able to haul the sail up to where the clip was. So we had quit thinking about it.
Then Saturday, Applegal had insisted on getting that sail hauled up high enough that the trim looked right to her. As it turns out, that height is the exact height that a sail is supposed to be on an Etchells – that is, the height at which the T-bar is the same level as the clip. We didn't latch the T-bar in the clip. However, with other sails, Pat and I have had the experience of being unable to make the latch click when we raised sail, giving up on it, and then finding out at the end of the day that the clip had at some point clipped itself. Apparently, that's what happened Saturday.
Only this time, we couldn't get the latch to unlatch. We went head-to-wind many times, but no matter what we did to reduce strain on the latch, it just wouldn't let go. We went upwind into a slip, tied the boat up, and tried to snag the end of the T-bar with the backstay to make it unlatch. Meanwhile, the sail, our best one, was flogging itself to death. Eventually, we got the trailer and hauled the boat out to the mast-raising pole, where a fellow sailor (he's from Georgia, so that's what we'll call him for now) went up in a bosun's chair to straighten things out. Georgia reported that the latch was in perfect condition, but the T-bar had gone into it crooked, so that's why it wouldn't unlatch.
So today, to avoid future grief, we made a modification to the main halyard: we removed the T-bar. From now on, we're just going to cleat the halyard the way most other sailors do, and not worry about the compression on the mast that a tensioned halyard is going to cause. I have a strong suspicion that we're not at the high-performance level where such tension will make a noticeable difference in the performance of our boat.