November 22, 2019
Irina Gracheva: firsthand – about the main thing
Finally the details! On her page Irina Gracheva Racing Mini-Transat 2019 on Facebook, Irina talked about the reasons for the crash and the status of the boat at the moment:
Now I am in Martinique, delivered safe and sound with a Ti Ble catamaran. And first of all, I am very grateful to the team for the welcome, great moral support and a warm atmosphere on board.
Now the dry facts:
Transat turned out to be very difficult. Long wait for the start. Two cold fronts and 300 miles of tacking in the October Biscay, strong winds along the Portuguese coast, delamination of the transom in the first stage. At the second stage: an intensive start and acceleration zone along Gran Canaria, winds 20-25-30 all the time after the start, squalls from under the clouds with gusts of 35-45 began to arrive in the middle of the path, although 300 miles to the finish were expected, the squall all the way.
My mast collapsed in complete darkness, on the 3rd day of squalls, November 11, at about 7 am UTC. That night was calm at first, and I could rest a bit. By morning, clouds began to come again, their outlines were visible, but not completely. Between the clouds, the wind fell as much as 12 knots. I carried the middle spinnaker and then took, then gave the reef in the grotto. I saw the outlines of a cloud passing from the leeward, received from her approach and acceleration. I saw a cloud passing from the windward, but along the nose, received from her the standard expected approach and gain up to 25. After that, everything calmed down. A flurry came up quickly and suddenly, with a force of 30 knots, which the boat and I were able to successfully overcome at the ridge and etched the spin. Then came a downpour with even greater amplification, on which we went into broaching. Broaching is a common thing, in general, and we waited for an early easing – the clouds moved fast with a gradient wind. None of the weak knots of the boat were damaged – the sails withstood, the bowsprit held. At one moment, the sound came that you expect with alarm at such moments, and the mast broke half a meter above the boom. There were 1,170 miles to go.
The windward cableway passed through the deck. Inside the boat, the cable tie was made in the form of an 8 mm steel cable in crimping and with a lanyard. The cable vomited from crimping. The cable itself had no signs of damage, the photo shows the line along which the crimping took place. Could this be foreseen?
It took me about 5 hours to free the sails and the mast in the wave and under squalls. The side was practically not damaged, and later I was able to position the mast along the side at three attachment points with slings, which allowed me to safely manipulate and completely disarm the mast. The mainsail broke during the manipulations a little – it was incredibly difficult to pull a huge mainsail with through armor from the damaged paint base. I thought to raise the mast on board, but it was difficult to do it alone, and it was pointless – the mini do not go on repaired masts.
The first escort ship came up when I completely emptied and handed over the mast. They immediately offered the evacuation, which I refused, intending to install emergency weapons and restore the autopilot. The entire NKE electronics system gave a full blackout after the crash.
A few more hours were spent on disconnecting the remains of the mast, installing a boom in its place and setting up a file system. The boom was 50 cm longer than the fragment of the mast, which made it possible to better set the sails. I started with a storm staysail, but very quickly put on a grooved genoa. In gusts it was possible to accelerate right up to 5 knots …. but not in the direction of the finish line. Placed along the side of the large staysail pulled strongly into the drive. In any case, the task of being on the move before dark was completed.
Tired terribly, the whole body hardened and hurt. After a terrible night, she immediately set about fixing the autopilot. I managed to arrange the supply of electricity, but only on one of the three displays, which informed me that we had a short circuit on the data cable. Naturally, when returning the mast, all wires were neatly cut and insulated. The electric circuit was not damaged at all – all devices, lights, and battery charging were functioning normally. In addition to the NKE electronics circuit, in which, in fact, only the wind sensor data cable was damaged, which was also insulated. In general, I tried all the combinations on the three NKE junction boxes, but failed to identify and exclude the cable with short circuit. It took another whole day.
All the time I counted miles, speeds, received forecasts (two days ahead only) and calculated days, food and risks. Realizing that the autopilot could not be repaired, and in advance they predicted changes in the direction of the wind and a decrease in its speed, I requested the nearest escort vessel. It was a Ti Ble catamaran 100 miles from me. Even more than a day I had to meditate in a drift. I will tell you about all aspects of my choice, thoughts and feelings at a conference in St. Petersburg, which we will arrange as soon as possible.
I drifted for almost 3 days when the catamaran arrived, and the final decision to leave the boat was very difficult. Highly. There are many aspects of making such a decision – from the goals and objectives of the project to risks and respect for the feelings of loved ones. I thought it over very carefully and weighed it. The rescue operation was performed on November 14 at about 4 a.m. UTC.
The boat was left afloat. As a rule, in this condition the boats reach the shore and can be picked up by the owners or those who want to pick it up. Flooding a mini is almost impossible, and a half-sunken boat is a great danger.
The Yellow Brick tracker was put into report mode every 6 hours to save battery. At the time of leaving the boat, the battery is 80%.
An emergency VHF antenna was installed on the top of the emergency mast. AIS is left on to make the boat visible to passing ships. The visibility range was 1-1.5 miles. The solar panel is installed and connected on the solar board. The EFOY fuel cell is charged with a new cartridge. Everything is made for unlimited supply of electricity and maintenance of AIS in work.
Running lights and lights are left on for better night visibility.
At the moment, the boat continues to drift at a distance of 800 miles in the zone of stable trade winds, in the direction of the Caribbean islands, it passes about 25 miles per day. Rescue actions are currently not possible.
952 November 22, 2019 # 9704