Acushla Dismasting 18th September 2016
It was the last race of the PHCC Winter series with a forecast of SW 25 to 35knots. The first leg was downwind so we set up with a conservative No 2 heavy Kevlar genoa and a double reefed main. We got a good start but were hampered soon after by broaching vessels with too much canvas up. However there were no contacts as we headed to the bottom mark at boat speeds of 10-11 knots with 35 knots apparent showing on the wind speed indicator.
At the bottom mark we hauled on the back stay pretty hard and started the upwind leg. The sea condition was reasonable for this wind strength and with a full race crew stacked out to windward we made a short port tack after the mark then tacked onto starboard to head to the Maraetai shore. With everyone settled for the long beat, a bit more on the back stay and vang, we were set for the ride to the top mark.
About 200 to 300 metres into the tack and showing a pretty steady 37 knots apparent with heavier gusts there was a loud bang as the inner weather stay parted and the top of the mast broke just below the spreaders followed by a second break at the gooseneck. The two pieces of mast plus the sails and rigging went straight over the leeward side with no harm to any of the crew.
Having a full healthy crew made retrieval possible although it was still a bit of a mission. We had the bolt cutters ready and could have cut away the rig had it not been possible to haul it all in and the sails aboard for the trip home. It took about an hour to get the rig in a condition to be able to motor while one of the race boats, another F1020 “Diamonds” with skipper/owner Peter Knight and his crew stood by to lend assistance if required. We still had VHF available via the hand held, and the secondary deck arial if we had needed to get Coastguard involved, but fortunately we did not.
Looking back had we been short handed we would have had to cut the rig free as it was just too hard to get the rig in again with only two three aboard.
We motored back to the marina, removed the rig plus the sails to shore ready for whoever was the chosen one to carry out the repairs. The main sail was removed from the spar with some effort over the ragged edges but had sustained relatively little damage. Although fully battened two battens were missing. The no 2 genoa is pretty bullet proof and that too had little damage but had again lost two battens.
The mast inspection showed that the top mast instruments, VHF arial and mast head lighting had all gone and torn all the wiring out all of which had been replaced in 2013.
The offending stay had broken 40 mm inside the swage then pulled out with no signs of corrosion just wasting at the fracture site from tensile loading.
The boat was fully covered for racing with Mariner Ins via Vero and a claim was submitted immediately to start the ball rolling. An assessor was appointed, Chris Laird for Vero who advised who to get quotes from for the repair works. Sparloft Industries who are the F1020 spar suppliers were contacted plus others for quotes with Sparloft providing the best quotation. Other repairs were required to stanchions, life lines and toe rails for which a number of boat builders were contacted. However none of those contacted offered a quote but commented that replacing toe rails was very labour intensive requiring two or three men for a eight hour day to get one off plus the same to put back which when quoting made for an expensive job for little work. After discussing this with the assessor it was decided that my race crew and myself would undertake this work to offset some of the other costs that may be controversial.
The stays were last replaced thirteen years ago but the mast was last out in September 2013 for inspection and painting. At this time the stays were inspected with the rigging screws and dye penetrant tested for cracking and checked for broken strands and rust, nothing was found and all were returned to use.
The replacement mast was delivered to the marina 29th November and restepped. The rigging was set up temporarily and the wiring and arial reconnected the next day and the mast sealing completed. The mast tuning will be carried out over the next couple of weeks to get where I want it.
Working closely with Vero’s Chris Laird and Sparloft’s John Bennett we were able to reach a level of communication that satisfied all and got the job done with no major issues. Vero covered all the mast, rigging, instrument, lighting and wiring costs and allowed for the man hours my crew put in to replace the toe rail and stanchions supplied by Sparloft.
For those thinking of removing and resealing the toe rails, while it is a mission and requires three people and a good set of tools it is doable as a DIY job. I hope I never have to do it again though.