Barcelona World Race - Hugo Boss Main Sail repair

Barcelona World Race - For those of you who have been following Hugo Boss you will know the boat had a problem with its main sail. Below is a blog from Andy talking about the problems they encountered.

Tuesday the 18th of January, not a particularly auspicious morning, Wouter and I had done our handover just before dawn, we were fetching in a stable eight to ten knots with full main and code zero. I had just looked at the weather, checked the inbox, had a look around the boat and made a cup of tea. By the time I sat down with my tea and museli it was day break.

We had just come out of the doldrums having caught up over half of the deficit we had encountered while waiting at the Cape Verdes, it was a good morning, position wise we were starting to move to the east of the fleet as there was a transition line we wanted to be early to cross, meaning stronger wind with a better direction.

I sat down on the edge of the pod and took a look up to check the main trim and noticed something odd with the top of the main, it was creased like we had never seen and it appeared a bit of one seam had lifted, not really sure what I had seen, I picked up the camera and took a high resolution shot of the main. Having still not got my head around the wiring of our computer and comms system, it took me some ferreting around to try and down load this picture.

In the meantime Wouter had stirred, thinking something was amiss, he had got up. I took him outside and he wasn’t sure what was up either, however it looked like the top seam of the main between the first two battens had opened up, while we contemplated this the breeze built slightly to twelve knots where upon the flap blew open and we could see daylight through it, not too good!

Our Technical Manager Ross Daniel had been informed of the situation and immediately notified the team and Doyles sails in NZ and our designer Richard Bouzaid who was sailing at Key West. We took no chances and dropped the main immediately to avoid further damage. From there we began an agonizing wait for the team and Doyles to analyze the damage from the pictures and come up with a suitable repair. Eventually we got the plan and it seemed a good one. Use the strongest glue we had onboard called 5200, Carbon uni tapes and Kevlar sticky back, all hand sewn for security.

We began this repair at 6pm, finishing it just before the sun went down at 8. 5200 fast cure needs a minimum of twenty-four hours cure time before being loaded so the whole next day was spent sailing with just the code zero.

Thirty-six hours of this kept us rolling south but meant we lost our favored easterly position in the immediate bunch around us. We were not to know how this would hurt us in the following days. The repair looked good for two days before another morning sail check revealed it too had let go.

This time we had to get serious if we were to avoid stopping and we were still twenty-five hundred miles from Cape Town. We emailed the list of our remaining supplies to Doyles who set about doing some serious testing, firstly to see why the seam had failed in the first place, why the first repair had failed and what we could do this time.

Two days later we had an answer, an elaborate matrix of the different materials was planned along with all the adhesive we had.

This was it, our final shot, this had to work because we’re about to enter the Southern Ocean and we did not have any materials left to effect a third repair if this one failed. The repair need to be done in two stages with the first side, the black mylar, being the moist critical to get right. So once again Main down, this time the deck was cleared, we needed a flat 2.5m x 2.5m work surface.

We finished gluing down the matrix on the first side just before sunset and left it to dry overnight. Side two was the security and we knocked that off pretty easily the next morning, so now we needed to give the adhesive the maximum time to cure before hand-stitching it and rehoisting.

Thirty-six hours after dropping the main the second time we were hoisting it again, this time hopefully for good. The whole second repair took place in the reforming St Helena high as the boats immediately in front managed to squeeze through and turn their one hundred mile lead into over one thousand miles within a few days.

We had our mainsail down for a whole three days and would have been a lot, lot closer if not properly involved with this group. This has been incredibly demoralizing, to see our hard work gaining ground back to be lost while we were limping along. We are back though, the main is looking great, we have given it a good test over the last few days and fingers crossed it holds.

The guys at Doyle NZ have been fantastic and went to a massive effort to make sure the second repair will hold. A big thank you to them and our shore team, who worked hard with Doyles and was so positive all the way, that has really lifted spirits onboard Hugo Boss.

Barcelona World Race website