An ocean racer is constantly with tools in hand, and this is what separates my tribe from day sailors like in the Americas Cup, but our task is made more complicated by the fact that this is a shake down run for a new boat. No sooner had we rejoiced after finding a soluttion to our munched mast then the small leak I mentioned in a previous entry has made a mess with our electronics.
The Spirit of Hungary has never been in such strong conditions before the start so we were not able to test all possible scenarios before leaving. Turns out a water was able to get in through an electrical conduit and dribble onto the circuit boards that control the keel mechanism. On this type of racer, we have a huge hydraulic ram that pushes the four tonnes of keel fin and bulb through and arc of 80 degrees to make the boat more stable against the force of the wind. This ram is run by a powerful electric motor that is able to swing the keel from on side to the other, when tacking for example, in only a few seconds.
With the expensive smells and a pall of smoke eminanting from the control box we had to find another solution! Nandor briefly suggested a stop in Capetown to install another control computer or we could manually pump the keel from side to side for the rest of the race. However, given the high pressures involved and the diminuative size of the hand pump we could have just as easily set about emptying the oceans with an eye dropper! I suggested rewiring the circuit to regain manual control over the electrical pump and with instructions from our technician back in Hungary (Köszi Peter) we again set to stripping wires with pocket knives and invented a new solution. Now, with one hand turning screw valves and one on the master switch for the hydraulic pump we should be able to drop the keel to the central postion and pump it up to the other side when we need to tack or gybe.
Far from becoming despondent about our floating workshop I feel emboldened and invigorated by our daily capacity to turn curve balls into home runs. Physically I feel great and totally capable of controlling such an impressive machine. In terms of experience I am a lot more relaxed facing conditions that when I was last here would have had me running for cover. When I fall asleep, I dream of coming back here solo in two years time for the Vendee Globe, secure in the knowledge that I have the experience to take on any situation with a lot more confidence than before.
As such I must thank Nandor for giving me this opportunity to come back to the wild and wonderful south to prove to myself, and hopefully sponsors, that this is where I can thrive. Almost forgotten in the midst of the our “oil up to the elbows” moment is the fact that both Nandor and myself have set a new personal record for miles travelled in 24 hours. With Sam Goodchild I previously set this at 360 Nm not far from here in the Global Ocean Race and just now we ran off 374 miles. Considering that this time was spent working on the boat rather than pushing it attentively, we feel confident we will again better this before the race is over.