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Navigator Eric Holden's RORC Transat Blog: Day 3

Navigator Eric Holden's RORC Transat Blog: Day 3

Day 3 Blog

Conditions have been pretty gentle today with winds of 5-10 kts and a light northerly swell. This has allowed us to chase down some gremlins in the boat systems. We have an oil leak in the hydraulic system, air is getting into the watermaker plumbing, and we're getting about half the expected output from the hydrogenerator. Earlier we fixed an electrical fault in the bilge pumps and boat instruments. The watermaker is behaving again and we're monitoring the other problems which aren't critical at this stage.

With the weather as benign as it currently is, the team is asking when we might see the trade winds. I hesitate to answer as it looks like we're stuck with what we've got for the next few days. This is not really the conditions that suit us over the larger boats but as we're still making progress and sailing a couple knots above the wind speed we don't have much to complain about.

A nice perk in these conditions is that we're all getting plenty of rest while the boat glides along gently. This is a treat as when she gets moving she is noisy and rough, and sleep only gets easy once exhaustion sets in.

Until later....Eric

Skipper blog November 18th

Skipper blog November 18th

Dear team Maverick fans,

I hope this blog finds you well. As I write this we are doing 16-17 kts in the Atlantic. We finally Got Maverick into her first ocean. This is what she was truly designed for.

Now I could tell you about lots of things, such as how in delivery mode we have hit 25 kts, or talk about the glorious sunsets we have had. But on this occasion I won't.

You see many back home think that this "yachting" job is all very glamorous. (This recently has not been helped by being based in St Tropez) it is not! Maverick is a stripped out race machine, so stripped out even that people from Volvo 70's have said "wow that is a very stripped out yacht".

This means all of our meals are freeze dried as we have no refrigeration. To cook these we have one "jet boil" that boils the water for us. There are no showers,  sinks or anything of the kind. We "hot bunk" apart from there are no bunks (that would be too heavy) so we use camping mats on the bare hull. To keep weight down there are no floor boards so keeping anything dry is a challenge.....etc. etc. I hope you get the idea.

The day to day business of "doing your business" is extremely difficult on board. So much so that in all of our racing and deliveries this is the first time that I have had to use Maverick'sfacilities. These extensive facilities consist of a bucket and a biodegradable bag. I can assume you get the idea from here? However to make matters more interesting the only real place on board for any "privacy" is the bow near the foil cases. I now imagine the vessel is doing 15-20 kts over an Atlantic swell. The experience is akin to getting drunk on tequila then being dared by a mate to sit on a bucket that is placed on top of the bar's mechanical rodeo machine. A challenge that has potentially disastrous repercussions if it goes wrong. Well on this trip we managed to make the challenge even harder, you see as with any yacht that goes this quickly she puts a lot of water over the deck. Some of this water inevitably ends up down below. This means that anything of importance that needs to be kept dry is kept in a dry bag. I bought a very bright blue dry bag for a very specific purpose (it had a very important job) it was to keep the toilet paper and associated supplies dry. This dry bag was carefully labeled and stored in a dry area of the yacht. it turns out however that a dry bag is only as dry as the huge hole that is left in it when it is left open! Yes ladies and gentlemen the yacht's supply of essential sanitary supplies are gone because SOMEONE left the bag open and and on the floor... Its a good thing Team Maverick run a no blame culture!

So at the moment there is a strong incentive for the delivery to happen quickly. Light winds are forecast further down the track so we will be using the motor. ETA at the moment looks like the evening of the 19th early on the 20th.

"Don't leave the toilet paper dry bag open!!!" Oliver Cotterell 2016

Olly out..

Skipper blog update 17th November

Skipper blog update 17th November

Hello Team Maverick fans!

Well we are making good progress. Things are going well. We are in the Atlantic!!

It is starting to warm up which is nice as a few of the crew myself included had everything we owned on and were getting cold after a watch. Efficient packing I say!

Last night we passed though the straits of Gibraltar. We pulled the foils in as we were afraid of debris which we would not be able to see.  We ran under a reefed main and GS (Genoa Staysail). The conservative sail plan meant we navigated the strait with ease, known for its orographic channeling of the wind. However our premonition of the debris was correct. We had at least three rudder strikes and a keel strike.

There has been some minor damage to the rudder top plate but we will know more when we can inspect the underside of the yacht in Lanza. If the weather permits I might dive on the hull later in the trip.

Other than that all is well on board with he watches ticking through and the miles falling. We will have lots to do in Lanza so getting in a few days early is going to be welcome..

Oh yeah last night we had a GREEN FLASH!!!

"The regrets a person most has are those they did not commit when they had the opportunity"

Olly Out

Maverick skipper blog update 15th November

Maverick skipper blog update 15th November

Good Morning Team Maverick Fans,

We are making good progress under "Iron Mainsail tonight" the moon is very large making the evening watch pleasant in the cool Mediterranean  air. Turns out with world events there is plenty to talk about.... I dropped the "Trump........... discuss" early doors in the watch.

The Palma stopover has been hectic. There was a lot to get done and the repair to the "Universal Joint" in the prop shaft was an unexpected occurrence from the Malta Palma delivery. Unfortunately this cost the team approximately three days of work.

The good news is that most of the important parts of "the list" have been dealt with and if the delivery proves to be fast we should get into Lanzarote (or Lanza as Nikki likes to call it) in good time. We aim to have Maverick at her best for the RORC Transatlantic Race but still have some work to do.

We have a good delivery crew on board with Archie Willis (normally full time on Ranger), Eric Holden, the wonderful Katherine Knight, Edoardo Bianchi (normally the Mate for Sean MCcarter) the delectable Nikki Curwen and myself.

We sent Kees ashore to be shore support and make sure that he arrives in Lanza with all the bits and bobs we might need!

It looks like the wind is going to fill in from the NE around midday tomorrow. We should be well past Ibiza and are hoping that this will give us a good push.

The Med rightly has a reputation for having too much wind or not enough. We are trying to get west as it is likely to be a bit less windy when it does arrive. We are all hoping that the GRIBS are accurate and we don't have one last big Med blow. It will be nice to turn off the engine as there is no insulation in the boat (too heavy) so it is very loud and hot!

Thanks as ever for all the support. I am heading back up on deck away from the racket of the engine to enjoy the rest of my watch.

Tonight I'd like to give a shout out to my Aunty Lindy and Aunty Sandy who will be watching our progress on the Yellow Brick!!

"Just keep swimming" Dory Finding Nemo....

Oliver Cotterell (Skipper)

Learning points from Palermo-Montecarlo by Kees Postma

Learning points from Palermo-Montecarlo by Kees Postma

Learning points from the Palermo Monte-Carlo race

With a 4th place on the water, behind bigger boats and teams with more practice and experience on their boats, the Palermo Monte-Carlo race was a big success for Team Maverick. But there was also a lot of stuff that went wrong during the race. Continuous improvement is a big part of the team culture, so it’s important that we learn from the things that go wrong. And we want to share that learning with all of you.

Problem #1: Lost the staysail halyard out of the mast

The swivel for the staysail halyard is held on to that halyard by a stopper knot. Unlike the swivels for the other furling sails there is no slot inside this swivel for a dogbone, which would be a more reliable stopper.

When we went to change from the J2 to the staysail in strong winds on the approach to Sardinia, this stopper knot came undone which meant the staysail went for a swim and the halyard plummeted into the mast. Mousing a halyard through the mast in these conditions is not possible, so flying our staysail was no longer an option. Sadly we have had this problem before and thought we had resolved it by using a different stopper knot.

Learning point: Improve the reliability of the stopper knot. Solution pending at time of writing.

Problem #2: Jib tack line snapped

Approaching the mandatory course gate off Porto Cervo in the dark and 30 knots of wind, the jib tack line snapped. Maverick’s jib tack line runs forward from the cockpit inside the boat and comes out of a small cavity in the deck all the way forward on the bow. The cavity is tiny, which makes it incredibly difficult to re-mouse a new tack line around the stainless rod that directs the line up to the sail. With all this happening at night and on the bounciest and wettest end of the boat, it took over 20 minutes of fiddling before a new tack line was ready to go.

Learning point: Have ready-to-go backups for all systems and controls that are hard or impossible to access, especially in the conditions in which those systems and controls are likely to fail.

Problem #3: Failure of hydraulic controls

The keel evidently had such a good time on full cant to starboard that, after foiling past Bonifacio at 20kts+ and straight into a massive wind hole in the lee of Corsica, it decided it wanted to stay there. As the hydraulic vang and traveller were still working, the fault seemed to lie in the connection between the control buttons and the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller: the brain that receives all hydraulic commands and sends them on to the hydraulic system). The frustrating thing here was that the hydraulic system itself was still working, we just had no way of telling it what to do.

An attempt to resolve the keel control issue accidentally resulted in a very mysterious but very complete disablement of the entire PLC, which meant that there was now no way of telling any of the hydraulics what to do. The rest of the race was sailed without the use of our hydraulic vang and traveller.

Learning point: There should be a ready-to-go backup method of commanding the hydraulics that bypasses the PLC.

Problem #4: Lack of testing and knowledge of manual keel controls

With no electronic control of the keel, we resorted to the often-discussed-but-never-really-tested manual keel controls. A set of manual hydraulic controls for the keel is obviously a great plan, but its usefulness is vastly reduced when most of the crew has never used it before. It didn’t take very long to educate people, but in an emergency situation it could have been a more serious problem.

Learning point: Everyone on board must have sufficient knowledge of the hydraulic valves and switches to be able to work at least the manual keel hydraulics.

Problem #5: Alternator no longer charging batteries

Around the same time that the hydraulic controls failed, we discovered that the alternator on the engine wouldn’t charge our batteries anymore. Perhaps it decided that with all our hydraulics down we didn’t need power either.

Learning point: Have another way of charging the batteries.

In this case we were one step ahead of the game! We carry a hydrogenerator that deploys off the back of the boat, makes us power-neutral at around 7 knots of boat speed, and charges our batteries at anything above that.

Problem #6: Damage to hydrogenerator

We felt very smug about our hydrogenerator until the sea state built enough that the entire device bounced out of its bracket on the transom and was dragged behind the boat on its safety line. The good news was that it was quickly noticed and recovered back on board. The bad news was that one of the blades had snapped off and we didn’t have any spares on board. We tried using it with only two blades, but it wasn’t generating a lot of power and the imbalance was causing so much vibration and drag we had to pull it up.

Learning point: Make sure the hydrogenerator can be locked into its bracket. And don’t leave the spare blades on a shelf in the container.

Although we always race to win, this program and especially its early stages are all about learning as much as possible. All of these problems are frustrating but they do translate into the quickest way to learn your yacht. At some stage the gloves need to come off and you need to stress test not only the systems, but also the people using them. The Mediterranean provides a great safe arena for this. Preparation is about preventing problems but also being ready for the inevitable one you did not anticipate.

We are looking forward to one more race in this arena in October, the Rolex Middle Sea Race, before we set off on the RORC Transatlantic Race in November.

Stay tuned as we keep sharing our progress with you.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”

Kees Postma, Team Maverick