Race report - and damage

25th Aug 2013


New member Sarah crewed for me today, we had lunch in the clubhouse then put to sea about 1.15 for the 2pm start. Sunny day, wind more northerly than we usually get, F3 or so. The wind kept shifting between north and easterly, the race officer took his time deciding on the course but then informed us we’d be doing a running start. Normally you start on a beat closehauled on starboard out to sea but today we started on a dead run. I was pleased with the start, we were right in the thick of the fleet, 6 or so other boats, right amongst the action and pulling away from some of them.

Round the first mark then hard on the wind for a long leg to windward, eastwards towards Worthing, and we fell well behind. Couldn’t seem to get the boat to point properly. The wind was getting stronger, F4 and maybe gusting towards F5, the tide was against us and we seemed to be taking ages as we tacked back and forth, Elsa on her beam ends again in strong gusts. Did I hit a lobster pot marker? Maybe. Was something going wrong?......after what seemed like ages and finally getting nearer the second mark, really not sure why we were going so poorly, all the fleet now well ahead of us and only one guy behind us, Elsa suddenly tacked all by herself. I said to Sarah, ‘I didn’t do that!’ and Elsa was tacking herself back and forth. Looking behind us I saw that the rudder blade had completely broken away and was swirling about in the water attached only by the bits of string that swivel it up and down. Drat, I said, or something like that.

Starting the outboard I found I was able to steer her using the engine as Sarah got the sails in and we were soon back under control. I called to the fleet on the radio and told them our situation but we were under control and motoring back towards the harbour. Some faster boats had already finished and gone back, a couple of those guys took one of the club safety boats and came out to meet us. I wasn’t confident to motor in with only the engine as steerage and with the rudder blade swirling around behind me so we had a somewhat undignified tow back into the harbour and into my berth.

Phew, all safe, all calm now though I did note my hands were shaking a bit as I downed a beer and caught my breath. I fished the rudder blade out of the water and cut the strings. About 3ft long and quite a heavy chunk of metal, it has snapped completely, probably metal fatigue, it’s now in my garage and the other half of it is still up inside the wooden stock, also in the garage.

One of the blokes happened to be a metals engineer and he thinks it’s a sheet of 8mm aluminium and we could get a new one laser cut using the old bits as a template, that’s one option, and I will ask the Seal owners association if they know where I can get a new rudder. So hopefully back sailing in a few days....and Sarah said it had all been very exciting and could she come again !!!

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