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Team Malizia's Will Harris completes gruelling mast repair at sea

by Team Malizia 3 Mar 2023 06:01 GMT 3 March 2023
Image of Will Harris covered in carbon dust after sanding the top of the mast for hours © Atoine Auriol / Team Malizia

At first light this morning the boat team wanted to start the repair that had been expertly prepared by the tech team, they had to delay this due to the bad sea state which would have made it incredibly dangerous to start work up the rig. The goal is to laminate a patch of carbon over the damaged mast. As the morning progresses the sea state only improves slightly.

The team starts to prepare the materials inside the boat, collecting everything they need from the spares bags inline with the shore team's instructions. Nico is focused on keeping the boat on course and managing the surroundings and Antoine is documenting everything, everyone has their role! Boris is the one coordinating all the departments and crucially communicating with land and our tech team (the fountains of knowledge) whilst Rosie is preparing the laminate. Questions have to be agreed in advance, who is going up, who is mixing the resin, who will wet out the fibre, do you have everything you need.

They have strict instructions from the tech team who are on call to answer any questions, three stacks of carbon fibre must be prepared, they have limited supplies of everything, so accuracy is key, there is no room for error! Each stack has six pieces of material to it and must be applied in a star shaped pattern in order to work and then resin added.

The pieces are cut but the area needs to be prepared before using resin or anything else. Becoming impatient of waiting Will Harris volunteers to go up the mast and start preparing the area. There is little wind which helps the progress, however, there is still a messy sea state and swell impacting the boat, with over three metre waves making the repair a challenge. Will must sand away the damaged area with a Bosch power tool in order to create a flat surface that the carbon laminate sheets will be applied to. The process takes a long time, well over an hour of being thrown backwards and forwards against the mast and with carbon dust covering Will from head to toe!

The team communicates directly with Will via Bluetooth headsets, they can stay in touch, give guidance and moral support from down below and also ask any questions that Will may have directly to the tech team. When he comes back down Boris sends him to get some rest and eat as he will be back up the mast again for the gruelling task of applying the laminate to the impacted area!

The next part is a race against time!! Once you start adding the resin you have 25 minutes to get it on the mast. This is a mix of skill and communication. Will goes up the rig to apply Spabond and then Will tells the team below that he is ready for the first stack to be sent up. Rosie will start to prepare the resin at zero minutes (a complicated process at sea), once you start you have 25 minutes to go maximum. You wet out the laminate stack in order on a plastic sheet (10 minutes has gone) once done they place the stack in a bucket and winch it up the mast to the waiting Will (15 minutes has gone)! Will then applies the first stack to the mast and communicates to the team down below that stack one is complete, only then can Rosie start to mix the next batch of resin for stack two and then stack three. The whole process takes hours and the whole time with Will up the mast!

With the final patch going on, Will removes the plastic and has to roll the piece into place and clean the area. Will had to finish the process in pitch darkness with a head torch for light. After 2-3 hours they will check their work and after 6-12 hours the area should be cured. By sunrise tomorrow the team will head back up the mast to check the area!

The aim is that this repair will allow the team to sail with full sails. The mast should be at full strength after the repair. If this is not the case then the team should be able to continue with a fractional head sail and reduced main (one reef).

Once Will is safely back on land, Boris Herrmann messages the group called "Malizia at Sea" saying, "Epic teamwork guys, thanks for all your support - now we can only cross our fingers and wait to see if it goes off well" he finished off by saying "Big respect to Will, it takes so much courage to be up there for so many hours in the dark with 3 metre sea state".

These moments may seem desperate to start with but the coming together of the team, the hard work, the perseverance and the human endurance uniting is an incredible thing to see in such inhospitable conditions. We will update you guys in the morning with how this progresses! Keep your fingers crossed or thumbs pressed (depending where you are from!)

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