During the very first leg of the current 2015-16 Clipper Race, disaster struck when 49-year-old Andrew Ashman was hit in the head by the mainsheet tackle, knocked unconscious, and died shortly thereafter.ÃÂ
This adventure sail event was concieved by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in 1995, and over the next two decades the race has been run under the auspices of Clipper Ventures with William Ward and Jeremy Knight joining Knox-Johnston as directors. ÃÂ
Over the years, the Clipper fleet has become more performance capable, and with greater speed and an increased sail-area-to-displacement ratio comes additional challenges.
If you were fainthearted, you probably wouldnÃÂ´t even get this far on an Atlantic crossing site, let alone plan on a large ocean voyage in a small boat.ÃÂ
On an Atlantic voyage there are some serious threats. Most can be prepared for; although some will be up to Gods will only.
There are many stories of poor sailors, alive at one second and dead in the next, killed by an unexpected swing of the boom. A sudden change in the wind, a freak wave, a mistake in the setting of sails or an autopilot error Ã¢ all could cause the boom to violently swivel over the cockpit in an instant.
At long, monotonous ocean voyages it is good to use a preventor, rigged from the boom end to the bow of the boat. It will keep the boom from unexpected movements.ÃÂ
One friend had a large freak wave, probably caused by an underwater volcano eruption. It hit the boat at night, in perfectly calm seas.ÃÂ
This is a terror as finding somebody in the large waves of the Atlantic, when the boat speeds at 7 knots Ã¢ perhaps at night Ã¢ is if not entirely impossible, then almost near impossible.
Another good thing is the fluorescent stick commonly used for scuba diving in case of emergency. You keep it in your life-west and brake it in the water.ÃÂ
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We had a rule that none of us was to go on deck at night without awaking the other, and to be tied to the lifeline at all single night watches.ÃÂ
We have heard of boats hitting whales sleeping at the surface, or even getting attacked by whales. It is extremely rare and cannot really be prevented in any way.ÃÂ
There are tales around about sailors painting a large eye or other, to a whale hopefully scary, images on the hull.
It has not seemed to work and the practice appears to have been abandoned. If you still decide to try it, you should take into account a possible embarrassment and explanations at times of hauling.
The entertainment lasted for about 30 minutes. As we had heard that you shouldnÃÂ´t do anything to irritate the whales, we didnÃÂ´t even dare to flush the toilets.ÃÂ
Collisions with boats and freighters are not that uncommon. The watches on boats, especially at night, are usually less than adequate, with the crew often napping away.
It is very hard to judge a distance to another boat at night. You could also get run over from the aft by a large freighter, without it even noticing that you were there.
Radar is very helpful in this situation, especially when getting closer to landfall at heavily trafficked places.ÃÂ
It is important to schedule a passage according to the weather patterns of the area. There are frequent hurricanes on the southern Atlantic Ocean passage between July and November. Other regions have similar weather patterns to take into account when choosing timing.
We had heavy winds and some storms on large parts of our passage. Our 37 foot old OÃÂ´Day, comfortable but wide, coastal cruiser made the crossing subsequently in only 20 days and some hours.
A proper, average steering speed at high winds for a boat depends on the size of the boat. It is around 7-knot speed for Santa Maria at her 37 feet. Around 5 knots for a 27 footer, and 9-10 knots for a 50 footer. Lower the speed by taking in sail.
In a very violent storm, it is better to drop as much sail as possible, steer with the Genoa and hit the waves head on. This meaning going of course and then returning back on course after the storm has passed.ÃÂ
Plastic boats are said to possibly burn if hit by lightning, so some sailors prefer steel or aluminum boats. Some plastic boats have copper wiring built into the hull, attached to a large plate at the keel.ÃÂ
Then we realized that we had also tied the gasoline container to one of the rig’s Ã¢ now with a lightning cable attached to it! We removed the gasoline and waited for what was next.
Fortunately, personal injury is said to be rare at a lightning hitting a boat. Turn on the Autopilot and go below. Do not touch any metals. If hit by a lightning, the damage could be great to electronics.
Learn moreÃÂ at Stainless Marine about boat parts and accessories and on how to stay safe from sailing risks.ÃÂ