More sail problems aboard 'Imerys'

Skipper Phil Sharp writes from aboard 'Imerys' in the North Atlantic: "We are now at over half distance in the Transat Quebec - St Malo and in second place behind the Spanish on Tales II. The last few days have been seriously wild with some incredibly fast downwind sailing. Daily mileages have been over 350 miles per 24 hours, which is something I've never got close to before in a Class 40, averaging some 15 or so knots.

"Last night we had our first major upset, which lost us some 6-7 miles and may affect our performance at times for the rest of the race. The wind had reduced quite a bit during the night so we decided to put the big spinnaker up in place of the small. After about half an hour of downwind sailing in 18-20 knots of wind, to our shock, the whole kite suddenly split in two, horizontally near the head, and the lower part of the spinnaker fell into the water.

"We quickly set about hauling the kite out of the sea and took it down below to inspect it, we found it had been cleanly ripped in two pieces. We think it should be possible to attempt a repair, but this has highlighted that the cloth of the spinnaker is on its last legs, this being a relatively old spinnaker, but more used than the others on board. We're drying the spinnaker out and will start repairing in tomorrow, but at the moment our boat speed is good as we have our heavy air small spinnaker up as the wind is not set to drop for the next couple of days.

"At one point when I was on the helm yesterday we got hit by a 35 knot gust with the small spinnaker up which was pretty hairy. The boat rocketed down a wave sustaining 24 knots, before crashing into the bottom of the next wave and diving under. It is incredibly exciting sailing and the adrenaline runs, not just for seconds but for minutes at a time!

"On board we are into a good rhythm and feel positive and in good shape, despite the setback. The next couple of days are set to be equally fast as we keep running up into the North Atlantic, in the bottom of a low pressure front, until we will gybe back a few hundred miles west of Ireland, on Wednesday. The routing has shown that we will be doing 1000 miles over the next 3 days which sounds too quick to be true but is actually highly possible!"

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