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by Susan preston Davis on 5 Feb 2001
Drama today in the Vendee Globe singlehanded non-stop round the world race
for British competitor, Mike Golding, when his yacht Team Group 4 narrowly
escaped dismasting for the second time in this event.

Team Group 4 was dismasted on the first night of the Vendee Globe Race
last November. Golding restarted the race eight days and four hours after
the fleet with a replacement mast. Followers of the race have been
astonished at Golding's progress of late, as he has worked his way from
24th place to his current 8th position. Last night he called his shore crew
to tell them that he had spotted serious chafe damage to the starboard cap
shroud (the piece of rigging which holds the mast from falling sideways)
about 4 metres down from where it joins the mast. He informed them he was
going up the mast - a very dangerous thing to do in daylight, let alone in
the dark.

While Team Group 4's shore team waited anxiously for Golding to
call them again to confirm he was safe, Golding climbed the mast to take a
closer look at the damage. Team Group 4 has a wing mast, so wide in
diameter that it is impossible for Golding to wrap his arms or legs round
it for support - all he was able to do was to try to hold on to the edge
of the sail with one hand. In order to inspect the damaged shroud, Golding
had to then suspend himself on a halyard, dangling 20 metres in the air,
out over the open sea. He needed
to act quickly, before Team Group 4's mast came crashing down for the
second time.

Team Group 4's starboard cap shroud was orginally damaged in the Southern
Ocean. When a boat is sailing in hard conditions with a full mainsail set,
the sail sometimes touches the shroud and the hard point where the batten
rubs against the shroud becomes chafed. This happened despite the fact
that the shroud has a braided Spectra cover with a plastic cover over the
top of that and that there was foam padding on the sail in the area where
chafe contact was likely.

Golding needed to make a jury repair. He decided that a 17 mm diameter
spare Vectran halyard doubled up should be strong enough to support the
mast. He contacted his shore team again to confirm that the halyard had
adequate working and breaking loads and concluded that the loads are
equivalent to the cap shroud, but as the material is different there would
be some stretching. The original shrouds were made of PBO, a composite
material, used by about two-thirds of the Open 60 yachts on the Vendee
Globe Race and very much lighter than the steel rod rigging formerly used
for these long distance races.

This morning Golding went up the mast again, in about 15 knots of breeze.
He had a delicate operation to perform. Golding fed the spare halyard
through the 'hand', a fitting at the front of the mast at hounds (capelage)
level, the level at which all rigging is attached to the mast - about
four-fifths of the way up the mast. The 'hand' swivels on the front of the
wing mast and the mast basically pivots off the back of that. Golding
passed the halyard through the
'hand' and fixed it at one end to the outboard end of the starboard deck
spreader. The other end comes down to the same place, but through a 10 ton
load bearing pulley which is also lashed to the same point. The rope goes
through the pulley and down along the deck spreader to the mast step,
where it is turned through another block and on to a primary winch in the
cockpit. Using this winch Golding was able to tension the new halyard/cap
shroud so that the old damaged shroud went slack, with all the load on the
new shroud. Golding tacked Team Group 4 back on to starboard and with two
reefs in the mainsail and the staysail set started heading back on course.

Golding rang his Shore Team: 'God, that was terrible. I banged my head and
got loads more bruises, but I think I've fixed it', he said.

The wind got lighter and lighter and Golding gingerly put up more and more
sail, gradually becoming more confident with the situation. This afternoon
he was sailing straight North at about 9.5 knots. Team Group 4's mast is
safe for the time being, but north of the Doldrums the boat will be
sailing in hard upwind conditions on starboard tack for about 1200 miles
and that will be the real test of Golding's jury rigging.

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