After a blistering first three days the last 48 hours have been a different story, testing the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the crew on Nomad IV.
It all started on Sunday morning when the boat suffered full hydraulic system failure. For Nomad this is a major system powering everything from the winches, to the captive ram mainsheet, to the water ballast. Initially heads went down as the line-honours race with Lucky seemed to be over, but as always with ocean sailors, soon there was a barrage of ideas to deal with each situation, while the French brains of Captain Jacques and Francois try to find the fault and a solution.
The first priority was to be able to trim the mainsheet, so a secondary line was attached to the back of the boom and to the hydraulically adjusted traveler, which has now also been by-passed. Blocks then create the 2:1 purchase system and then it goes to the leeward runner winch, which we can operate with a winch handle, as we can with all of the winches onboard, just very slowly by comparison.
Next was how to change our sails as the windspeed and direction dictates. Fortunately all except our running spinnaker are furling sails, where we can furl and unfurl manually, apart from our biggest jib which is on the hydraulic furling headstay with no manual backup. So instead of taking the furling line to the winch we now utilize the ‘chain gang’ approach and use the full crew lined up to pull the rope, along with a significant course alteration downwind to reduce the effort.
Of course we still have to get any of our 3 spinnakers up and down. In one way we are lucky that the halyard is a 2:1 purchase as the weight of the sail (up to 175kg) is halved, but the height of the sail @ 43 meters is doubled in the length of rope to be pulled in every hoist to almost 90m. Again the whole crew is arranged in a ‘chain gang’ line-up to facilitate the hoist. Obviously when the crew signed up to the Transatlantic race on this state of the art high performance Superyacht, they were not expecting the extreme physical exertion, but at least with our luxurious cabins and fantastic food they are well rested and fed.
The last but very important problem to solve was how to get water into the ballast tanks to give the boat added stability when the wind increases or when reaching. This is critical on Nomad where the bulb on the keel is very light for the size of boat.
A range of ideas were put forward with the best being to fill the tanks via the on deck air & overflow vents with the boat firehose, however before this was completed successfully, a simplier solution of filling the leeward tanks by venturi was proposed, where we then have to tack off course to gravity transfer the water to the other side and then tack back, giving water in the now windward tanks. We are hoping not to have to do this too often, as heading back to South America this morning wasn’t helping our line-honours challenge! Luckily we can drain them with gravity when required.
While I have been writing we have the bad news that the hydraulics is a terminal failure which we cannot fix before the finish, but this will not affect our determination or effort to try and catch the 25 miles on ‘Lucky’ for line honours victory and as Clarke Murphy has already stated ‘never give up’!