Repair in the middle of the ocean
Theory and practice

Repair in the middle of the ocean

Experienced ARC yachtsmen talk about which tools, equipment and spare parts are better to have on board when going to the Transatlantic.
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Yachting World Magazine interviewed 254 skippers from ARC, the largest transatlantic regatta, to find out what kind of breakdowns they encountered during the race and how they managed to fix those problems in the middle of the ocean. Toby Hodges has compiled the captains' answers in this article so that we can take their experience into account.

During the ARC in 2016, 60% of the fleet of 290 boats reported malfunctions.

In preparation for the start of the ARC 2017, each team spent an average of about €12,000 to buy backup equipment.

It's a huge expense item, but captains know the value of that expense and pay particular attention to it.

We asked the skippers of the ARC 2017 exactly what parts they had in stock before the regatta, including parts for steering, autopilot, power supplies, engines, sailing, navigation, as well as household appliances such as galleys, showers and so on.

Judging by the captains' answers and long and comprehensive lists of everything they take with them, it is safe to say that today most teams are very, very serious in their preparations for the long haul. The organizer of the regatta, the World Cruising Club (WCC) company, appreciates this approach and, in turn, gives recommendations, as well as sets the minimum requirements for the equipment of boats.

But no matter how carefully you prepare yourself, there will always be some problems for which your arsenal of spare parts will not be ready.

Then you'll have to put all your skills and ingenuity into action. Breaking sails, rubbing and wear and tear on the rigging are standard difficulties that can be encountered when passing through the passageways zone. The ARC fleet had to cope with a much greater variety of troubles.

Steering and autopilots

The fact that many teams take a spare autopilot with them shows how much skippers appreciate this assistant. More than 20 captains noted that during the regatta they had at least one spare autopilot with a full range of spare parts and facilities for its maintenance, from pistons to hydraulic fluid.

For example, the Jeanneau SO49 KALU' III had two steering systems and two autopilots in stock. And the crew of the Berckemeyer 48 GreyHound, in addition to the backup electronic autopilot, as well as the additional drive and computer, also had a wind thruster, just in case.

At least ten crews took the wind helm with them - in case of electronic autopilot failure.

For the crew on the Shannon Pilothouse 38 North Star sailboat, Windpilot's windmill was a rescue when the batteries stopped holding the charge and the electronic autopilot simply didn't start.

On one of the most well prepared boats, the Barracuda of Islay (the whole race took place without a single breakage), the Pacific Windpilot was the main autopilot and the hydraulic autopilot was on the catch.

«The Windpilot can handle almost any situation, except for driving under an asymmetric spinnaker or parachute when there are sharp gusts of wind,"»explains Barracuda skipper Graham Walker.

Comparing the equipment of ARC 2016 and ARC 2017, we noticed that the captains, who had problems with the steering pull in the first race, installed a Dyneema heavy-duty fabric Sturge before the next race. In long transitions, they recommend to have such a part in stock at all times.

It is important to go through the entire steering system and think about how you can replace each of its elements if it breaks far from shore.

Do you know how to handle an emergency tiller? What would you use as an emergency steering wheel? Do you have a floating anchor on board?

«In case of a rudder failure, we have a Seabrake floating anchor that we can use for emergency steering," Walker continues. - We have a spare feather, propellers and a repair kit for the wind-driven steering, as well as a maintenance kit and the necessary fluids for the autopilot.

Sources of energy

What to do when the power runs out in the middle of the ocean and the lights go out? How can you prevent this?

Here, of course, the owners of catamarans will start to talk about the benefits of two engines in generating electricity. However, it would be more reasonable to have several different energy sources on board.

Do not rely entirely on a diesel engine or generator. it is better to stock up on wind, solar or hydroelectric cells.

Many ARC-2017 teams have provided for at least three ways to get electricity on the road. And the crews of Allures 40 Passepartout and Hallberg-Rassy 46 Shepherd Moon boats did not tempt fate and from the very beginning of the race used several sources of energy simultaneously. Watt & Sea hydro generator was especially popular among such equipment: 17 skippers indicated it in their lists of backup equipment.

During the ARC 2016, most of the problems with the generator were caused by the commands' inability to carry out routine maintenance and by faults in the cooling system (usually a failure of the impeller or water pump).

Skippers scientific with this experience were much better prepared for the next regatta. They advise you to take with you everything you need for complete maintenance of diesel engines and generators, including filters, impellers, belts, fuses, oil, coolant, etc. Some even recommend the addition of one water pump, one diesel pump and a spare generator.

Whatever power supply you use, it is important to preserve the energy you get. In 2016, fifteen yachts in the ARC fleet had battery charging problems. At the end of the race, the two teams still had to go to port. Cape Verdeto replace old batteries.

Several skippers were sure their batteries were all right, until they had a problem with the charge. So it's worth double-checking the batteries and measuring their charge level before a long journey.

Sailing weapons

The only salvage when engines go completely out to sea is, of course, the sails.

It is necessary to take care of a reserve sailing wardrobe and a large number of ropes, and learn how to repair sails.

In addition, riders recommend a full set of spare schools, halyards, blocks, dainima slings and soft rigging brackets. And with the right tools, repair time and patience, the number of spare sails can be kept to a minimum.

Navigation systems

ARC 2017 member yachts have been well equipped with various navigation systems. Most of them had at least a couple of alternative means of routing as well as portable GPS and radio stations. At least 24 skippers took the sextants with them.

several skippers have included iPad and iPhone as navigators on their backup list.

Others have approached the question much more thoroughly. For example, the equipment of the Beneteau Oceanis 55 Julia team included: a sextant, directories, an iPad (with iSailor application) and external batteries, a portable GPS, two VHF stations and a spare satellite phone. And the Bowman 48 Tairua crew took with them an SSB station, a satellite phone, two VHF radios, two iPads, maps, a sextant and a nautical chart.

Home appliances

Race the race and lunch the schedule. If there is a problem with the electricity on board, the stove and microwave will be useless, so during the 2017 regatta most boats had three to six gas cylinders. By the way, a barbecue in the cockpit can be not only an attribute of a pleasant outdoor rest, but also a good alternative for cooking in case of problems with the hob.

Many skippers have brought spare pumps and repair kits to the regatta so that the crew can always take a shower and refresh themselves.

Repair of a yacht in the middle of the Atlantic.

Breakdowns can happen even on the most prepared yachts. The question is how to deal with them. To do this, you need to have the right set of tools and spare parts with you, and remember to be creative and smart.

Rubbing gear, as before, has become the most common problem during the 2017 regatta. Racers recommend the use of dainima braided cables for schools and treads to protect rigging and sails on long crossings.

The crew of Beneteau Oceanis 55 Julia found a creative solution to reduce gear friction using a conventional cutting board.

«We had to replace the halyard as it was chafed at the top of the mast," says skipper Louie Neocleous. - When he started to rub and the spare halyard, we cut the plastic bushing out of the cutting board to prevent further damage to the rope.

Besides the problem of rubbing the gear, the participants of the regatta had enough reasons to show a non-standard approach to troubleshooting. The crew of the Rival 38 Haji, for example, had to work hard to solve rigging problems by replacing three different schools, patching up a hole in the mainsail, restoring the thread in the rigging bracket and adjusting the rigging so that the yacht could walk on a double staysail.

On Mark Pollington's Sweden 45 Wild Iris the locks of three ten millimetre rigging brackets were broken due to loads. To prevent a repeat of the situation, the crew weaved soft Spectra rope rigging brackets in place.

After damage to the lower cables on board the 72ft Challenger 2, the riders secured the rigging with halyards leading to the winches on both sides of the boat. The Bordeaux 60 Tommy crew used a spare Dyneema sling to repair the genoa twist.

On Wauquiez 43 Khaleesi, they had to cut the spinnaker boom, drill holes in it and screw in new bolts to make it shorter but more efficient. And when a bearing on the Seawind 1160 Victory Cat broke down, the yachtsmen made a temporary rudder pen guide made of aluminum rods.

The most useful tools for ocean breakdowns...

A carefully designed set of tools can be the key to a successful repair away from shore. Conventional screwdrivers, drills, wrenches, hexagons, pliers, nozzle sets, pressure pliers, cutters, hacksaws, sturdy tape, soldering iron and multimeter - the yachtsmen unanimously admit that they are indispensable.

With regard to more specific tools, racers recommend always to have on board a riveting gun with a set of consumables of different sizes, as well as tie straps with ratchet mechanism in case of breakage of the swivel boom. Among the most useful equipment of the bosunner, they singled out a good flashlight with a powerful battery, a reliable multitool, a sharp knife and equipment for snorkeling.

«A hot knife is an ideal tool for working with ropes,"»says Richard Savage, and his opinion can be trusted as he has had to repair a spinnaker halyard on board his HR46 Shepherd Moon three times during the race.

Skippers advise to stock up on a whole arsenal of sail repairs, from needles and threads to sewing machine. Captain Beneteau Oceanis 60 Nikita offers a GRP repair kit and long bolts in case the portholes are damaged. It is also worth making sure that there is enough grease and glue on board.

«The main thing when fixing faults is creativity,"»says the Moody Magic team on Moody Carbineer 44.

The mast broke? Don't give up!

One of the most valuable recommendations for this article was given by Stephan Mühlhause. On his Hallberg-Rassy 46 Lykke, the mast suddenly broke, 250 miles from the nearest sushi, Barbados. This situation was a living example of how important comprehensive preparation for this kind of travel is.

«It was quite an ordinary night with 16 knots of wind and waves about two meters away when we lost our mast. We are very happy with how we proved ourselves in an emergency situation. We acted as one coherent mechanism and we were lucky to have a battery-powered grinding machine with stainless steel cutting discs on board. We managed to cut the rigging in 15 minutes without damaging the body. The fallen mast broke everything in its path, and hydraulic oil sprayed all over the deck.

The team decided to wait until dawn and make sure there was nothing in the water to keep them going. Only then did they start the engine. Fortunately, by then, the wind was rustling and there was enough diesel on board to cover the remaining 300 miles to the finish line at the T&nbsp.Saint Lucia.

The yachtsmen built an improvised rigging, installed a spare spinnaker gyke instead of a mast and attached an emergency VHF antenna to it. This allowed them to contact the Martinique Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, which directed the boats in the vicinity to their aid. Thanks to the support of the arriving French vessel, the victims reached the shore safely.

The Lykke crew still breaks their head, which could break the mast in 16 knots of wind.

«In spring, we renewed the cables, supports and paints. In Las Palmas, Jerry Rigger said that we have the most reliable equipment and even wanted to give us a prize for it! We checked the rigging daily, even before it happened. We didn't notice anything strange. The mast was hanging a meter from the deck. She slowly leaned to the port side without damaging the cables or the levers.

Conclusions .

We asked captains how they plan to upgrade their yachts and marine equipment based on the experience gained during the ARC. The answers were mainly to improve the power supply system and to increase the power of sailing weapons for full courses. Also, most riders intend to take care of the best equipment and deck equipment, including spinnaker-geeks, martin-geeks, additional spinnaker halyards, blocks and piles, etc.

The basic idea that unites the advice of all skippers - stock up everyone, but more: more fuel, more sail repair kits, more medicine, glue, generator parts, hoses, filters, tape, and most importantly - patience.

The Tintomara crew put it this way: «More solar panels, additional wind and hydro generators, and more sails for full courses.

There were some very unexpected answers. For example, the Mood Magic team is only «thinking of making small changes - more cup holders, a cockpit fridge and outriggers.

Expert opinion

World Cruising Club director Jeremy Wyatt, who has not missed a single ARC regatta since 1998, also gave his vision.

«Anyone who plans to cross the ocean should always anticipate what they will do if the steering and autopilot fail. Usually boats are fully loaded at the beginning of the journey, then they encounter large waves in the passageways area - all this places a high load on the boat and its equipment. Obviously, it is essential to check and prepare the boat thoroughly before departure.

Wyatt thinks that a full team can handle full manual handling if needed, but a working steering wheel is essential if you don't have enough hands. In this case, the availability of a spare autopilot or wind steering is not only desirable, but mandatory. Otherwise, the crew may have serious problems.

He also notes that there were eight incidents of autopilot failure during the 2017 regatta and therefore recommends that spare fuses be taken to combat automatic errors.

«The best way to assess how full your arsenal of parts is to look at the system as a whole and see what chain reaction can cause each of its elements to fail.


The article was translated by Diana Karpovich especially for itBoat.

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