Sunset in Corsica

One of our winter projects was to upgrade our 35kg Spade anchor to a 45kg Ultra. After 3 weeks of cruising and anchoring with the Ultra, I feel like I can give some feedback on how it’s going. Although we haven’t had any really strong winds at anchor so far this trip (the top was around 20-25 knots) we have had no trouble setting and holding in many different bottom types, including weed, rock and sand. The Ultra has worked perfectly for us in all the conditions we have encountered. It definitely sets better on a short scope than the Spade. We can reliably set on 3:1 scope on the Ultra, where we needed 4:1 scope or more on the Spade. This may be due to the extra weight, but in any case, the Ultra is definitely better.

I nearly always dive on the anchor after we drop to check we are set well, and I really like the shiny stainless steel finish of the Ultra, which makes it easier to spot when we are setting in weed bottoms.

Here’s a video of our Ultra in a sand bottom in Sargone Bay, Corsica. The anchor reset overnight after a 90 degree wind shift. You can also see our anchor roll in the video, which is a really handy little buoy that makes it easier to drive towards the anchor when raising it.

Our new sails are rigged and final projects finished so we were finally able to leave port and do some sailing! I have been really looking forward to trying out all the new gear and modifications on a voyage with a variety of different conditions, but before I talk about sailing, I need to let you know that Robin has created a @sailwildling Instagram account where she is posting photos each day. You can see her latest photos in the sidebar of our website or subscribe to the @sailwildling feed to get her latest posts.

Robin’s brother, Kirk, and his wife Shelly and their daughter Saylor joined us for the first part of the trip, sailing with us as far as Cannes. We left Marseille and stopped off in Bandol, Porquerolles and St Tropez before arriving in Cannes. We had mostly light winds so we were using the Genoa upwind and the Code-D downwind with full mainsail. The North 3Di Genoa has become my favorite sail! It’s very easy to deploy and trim, and generates a lot of power.

It was great sailing with Kirk, as he is good sailor and loves it as much as I do, and I was really sad that they had to leave us in Cannes. We continued on, just the 4 of us, past Nice and Monaco and over to Imperia Italy. We had a lot of wind for this part of the trip, 25-28  knots on the nose, so we were close hauled and tacking back and forth the entire way with the staysail and two reefs in the mainsail. These were similar to the conditions that I had all the helm balance and steering issues with last year in Sardinia. The new staysail setup is MUCH better. No balance issues at all and the autopilot had no trouble steering us the whole way. I kept us as hard on the wind as possible but not so close that we lost too much speed. In these conditions at around 40 degrees apparent wind angle, we can keep our speed at 8 or 9 knots  and with the daggerboards down, we make very little leeway. Easy, fun sailing!

We stopped for the night in the port of Imperia Italy to get out of the still building easterly winds, and the next morning we decided that rather than trying to beat further east, we would turn south and head for Corsica a bit sooner than planned. This leg started out with wind at 25 knots and close hauled, but after a few hours the wind eased to 10-12 knots and shifted around to our port aft quarter. These are Wildling’s favorite conditions, and with full main and Genoa she pulls the apparent wind up to around 60 degrees and we skimmed along at 9-10 knots on smooth seas all the way over to the north west coast of Corsica. We covered the 100 nautical miles between Italy and Corsica in an easy day-sail, arriving just before sunset.

The weather forecast the next day was for SW winds at 25-30 knots and continuing the same for the next 5 days, so we decided to sail down the coast about 25 NM to the port of Calvi and wait there for the weather to settle down. Calvi has a mooring field which gets a bit crazy in strong winds, with many yachts having problems trying to pick up mooring buoys. There were a few near collisions as boats were blown off the mooring buoys before they could hook on. We had our fenders out more than once to try and protect ourselves from boats coming at us out of control! Pretty stressful! There are two guys in Zodiacs zooming around non-stop helping people get hooked up, and they also act as motorized fenders to keep boats from colliding.

Catamarans have a huge advantage when mooring in windy conditions like this, because you can pick up the mooring from the transom, and since the Zodiac boys were busy when we arrived, this is what we did. The way it works is to position the boat downwind of the mooring buoy with the back of the boat pointing at the buoy, next you reverse into the wind towards the buoy until it is at the transom. It’s really easy to do this and you can take your time and do it slowly. Have a crew member get a really long line ready, and as soon as the buoy is within reach thread the line through the mooring loop and pull the line until the mooring loop is in the center of the line. Now you can reverse back beside the buoy while your crew member walks the line up to the bow mooring cleat and ties both ends onto the cleat. Now you’re on the mooring, and you can take your time to thread the second mooring line through the buoy and over to the mooring cleat on the opposite bow. Use your engines to position the boat as your crew adjusts the length of the mooring lines to position the mooring buoy in the center of the bows.

After the wind died down we left Calvi and we’re now working our way south. We’ll do a series of day sails as we follow the coast down before sailing back over to Marseille.

Here’s the satellite tracker map of our trip so far

 

Staysail!

Our new North 3Di staysail arrived on Monday and the guys installed it on Tuesday. Another beautifully made sail from North, these guys really do produce a high quality product, not a single blemish, mark or defect, and it fits exactly on the boat.

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New staysail hoisted, tying off the halyard at the mast

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Tensioning the luff

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Staysail clewboard

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We installed a guide on the crossbeam to lead the gennaker furling line back to the winch

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The aft end of the gennaker furling line leader (left of the clutches) that positions the line correctly on the winch. The larger clutch is for the gennaker tack line and the two small ones are for the staysail furling line. The gennaker tack line is long enough to allow us to pull the tack over to either of the bows. This lets us run deeper downwind angles using the Code-D or an asymmetric spinnaker.

The only thing left to do now is to rig a tensioner for the slack section of the furling lines to keep them running smoothly when furling and unfurling the sails. We will do that next week, then go for a test sail to make sure everything is working correctly!

Last week we received two of our new headsails from North. We’re rigging the furling lines now and waiting for the self tacking staysail to arrive in the next few days. Here’s some video I took of the North 3Di Genoa and the Storm Jib.

We’re making good progress on the sailplan changes. All the winch and line handling changes are done now. Next steps are to install the stays and sails, and finish connecting the UpSide Up system.

The big news this month is that after 6 months of waiting, Incidences finally installed the broken batten fitting on the mainsail!

Here’s a video of the progress this month:

The team at Escale Rigging is making progress on the sailplan changes and the UpsideUp install. Here’s some video I took today showing the work done so far. I forgot to mention the new anchor, but you can see it in the video under the trampoline.

The team at Escale Rigging is making good progress with our sailplan modifications. Although the boat is a total construction zone right now, it’s great to see all the work getting done.

I’ve had some people ask why I have to make these changes on a brand new boat? The answer is, I don’t “have” to make any changes, but I did think it was likely that I would want to make some modifications to the headsails after I had sailed the boat for a year and that’s what this project is about. If you’ve read my earlier posts on the construction process you know that I was very happy with the advice I received from Outremer when we selected all the options we wanted to install, but there were some things that I just couldn’t decide on without spending time sailing the boat, so I asked Outremer to install the structural elements we would need for the different headsail options, and I deferred the final decisions on the sailplan until after our first year of sailing.

We had to pull the ceiling lining out to install the genoa sheet lead pad-eyes and to run power cables

The ceiling lining was removed to install the genoa sheet pad-eyes and to route power and control cables and the pneumatic lines for the UpsideUp system.

 

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The cabinets were removed to install controls for the new headsail furler winch and to convert the genoa sheet winches to electric.

 

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Stéphane from Outremer came over from La Grande Motte to show the guys how to disassemble the head lining, and to make sure we had sufficient reinforcement for the new genoa sheet padeyes. Everything is fine because Outremer added the reinforcing when they built the roof. Thanks Stéphane!

Almost all the equipment and materials have been ordered now, and everything should be delivered in the next few weeks.

The new 45 kg Ultra anchor and flip swivel are in place and fit onto the davits with no changes, which is great!

Outremer sent their electrical engineer over to replace the faulty level gauges on the water tanks. Outremer’s R&D team has done a lot of testing with different level sensors to find a model that is accurate and reliable. This was made more complicated because the sensors need to be quiet, as the water tanks are under the beds. The sensors that use a sliding magnet ring are very reliable, but are too noisy, so we needed to find a reliable capacitive sensor that has no moving parts. The new sensors and gauges are now installed and are working well.

The halyards and reefing lines have been replaced with higher performance Dyneema/Technora lines and Escale Rigging fitted extra dyneema sleeves over the friction areas of the new lines to make them even more resistant to chafing.

1st reef reefing line

The original 1st reef line uses a dyneema/polyester blend which shows significant chafe after 1 season of use where it runs through the low friction ring on the sail leech

 

New reefing lines are much higher load and have friction reducing sleeves

The new reefing lines are higher load dyneema/technora and have friction reducing dyneema sleeves

 

You can see the anti-friction sleeve on the gennaker halyard which we use to hold up the boarding bridge when we are at the dock. The sleeve protects from chafe where the halyard enters the mast.

You can see the anti-friction sleeve on the gennaker halyard (which we use to hold up the boarding bridge when we are at the dock). The sleeve protects from chafe where the halyard enters the mast.

 

New halyards

New halyards

We did have one surprise when the guys were up the mast to route the new halyards, they found the outer coating has come away from around the opening where the forestay attachment loops enter the mast,  exposing the carbon fiber edge, which could cause chafing of the dyneema loops.

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Outremer has contacted Lorima, the mast manufacturer, and they are sending us instructions on how to fix it. It’s not a structural fault, but it is something that could chafe the forestay attachment loops over time, and it serves as a reminder of the importance of doing thorough rig checks every season, even on new boats!

Mainsail batten fitting still not fixed!

I’m still waiting for a replacement for the fitting that attaches the top batten of the mainsail to the mast. The fitting broke during the Outremer cup in May, and we have been waiting since August for Incidences (the sail manufacturer) to figure out why it broke and to send us a replacement.

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Our broken fitting on the left vs the original fitting on the right. The 3 holes in a line create a weak zone which caused the fracture.

After Incidences sent me two replacements that were exactly the same as the one that broke, I pulled our broken one out of the sail and sent it to Outremer so they could work it out directly with Incidences. The response from Incidences is that the fitting broke because the attachment holes are all in a line, which creates a weak zone. They are manufacturing a replacement from a stronger material with the holes staggered. I can’t understand why this has taken 4 months to fix (so far) and we can’t use the boat without it, so I’m certainly not a fan of Incidences right now!

New headsails

Our new headsails (genoa, staysail and storm jib) are currently being manufactured by North Sails (I won’t buy sails from Incidences again after the batten fitting debacle) at the North USA factory, which is where all the new 3Di sails are made. I’m hearing really great reports from other owners about these sails having excellent durability on long distance cruising boats, so hopefully we will be happy with them also.

I’ll post an update as work progresses, and hopefully some video as well.

Working with the experts

We’re starting on the upgrades we have been planning for the winter. When we moved Wildling from La Grande Motte to Port Corbières in Marseille, I was very fortunate to meet Philippe Escalle, who is based in L’Estaque, and in addition to running the regional North Sails loft, also designs, manufactures and installs the rigging and custom carbon components for a number of offshore racing monohulls.

It’s quite amazing how much knowledge and talent there is in the French sailing community. These folks are seriously into sailing, and ocean racing in particular. It’s no accident that nearly all the singlehanded round the world records are held by French sailors, it seems to be part of their DNA. What’s great for me, is that although I have no interest in racing, I am learning a lot from these guys that applies to offshore cruising, and also that I have people working on our boat that have been out there testing, using and perfecting their equipment in the most challenging conditions imaginable.

Philippe has done a lot of racing himself, much of it in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, and he has a good amount of experience with multihulls, which makes him a great partner to design and install the changes we want to make to our sailplan.

In this post, I’ll summarize the modifications we are making, with links to some research info I found useful. I’ll explain each change in a more detailed post with photos and video as they are done.

Project List

Replace self tacking jib with new Genoa – We are removing the self tacking jib, and replacing it with a North 3Di Genoa. The genoa will be on a furler that is either fully furled, or fully unfurled i.e. no reefing.

New Staysail – aft of the Genoa we are installing a self tacking staysail. This will also be a North 3Di sail on a permanent 0% or 100% furler. The staysail will balance the mainsail when it’s double reefed.

New storm jib – aft of the staysail we are adding a storm jib. This sail will be on a detachable, textile stay, that is hoisted when required. The storm jib will balance the mainsail when it’s triple reefed.

New headsail furler winch – on the foredeck aft of the trampoline we are installing an electric winch with a remote control at the helm. This winch will allow single handed furling of the staysail, genoa and gennakers from the cockpit.

Running rigging changes – We have had problems with chafe and creaking on our reefing lines at the boom end, and the halyards where they exit the mast top. The lines are Dyneema, but the covers are polyester which overheats and separates due to friction under load. We are replacing the reefing lines and halyards with Dyneema core, Technora cover lines, with an extra Dyneema cover at the friction points.

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Anchor replacement – Our 35 kg Spade anchor is undersized for our boat. Even in excellent holding, and plenty of scope, we are creeping backwards in gusts over 25 knots. After a lot of research and discussion we have decided to replace it with a 45 kg Ultra Anchor.

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Anti-capsize and Man Overboard safety system – There are now quite a few 5X boats that are using the UpsideUp anti-capsize and man overboard recovery system from Ocean Data Systems. I’ve discussed this with other owners and also with Christophe Lassegue at ODS to better understand how it functions. The system serves three main purposes:

  • Anti-capsize – monitor the rig loads and heel angle and automatically depower the sails if the load or angle exceeds safe limits
  • Automatically detect a man overboard, then sound the alarm siren, release the Jon Buoy, and mark the MOB GPS position in the water
  • Environmental monitoring – monitor wind speed, wind angle, water depth and traffic and alarm when safety ranges are exceeded.

While we always try and sail conservatively and anticipate bad weather, on a voyage as long as we are planning, we will run into unexpected situations, and this system might help us avoid or at least better cope with an accident at sea.

Here is a video (sorry there’s only a French version) explaining how UpsideUp was designed for offshore racing and then adapted to the cruising marketplace.

I’ll be adding more details about each of these changes, including why I think we need them in upcoming posts.

Outremer Cup 2016 Video

Here’s a really great video that pro cinematographer Christophe Nizou made of the Outremer Cup in La Grande Motte in May. We were lucky enough to have Christophe aboard for the 2nd day of the regatta, and he took some excellent video of us and Wildling!

Since we really wanted to avoid having a diesel generator on Wildling, we had to install a power generation system that would be a viable substitute. Solar panels are the central element of our charging systems, but they have their limits. During night passages, with all of our navigation, instruments, lights and radar running, followed by several days of cloudy weather, the batteries get depleted and need to be charged by other means. We have our Mastervolt 24V alternators, which are rated at 110A each at max rpm, and give us about 70-80 amps each at 1,500 rpm, so we can recharge our lithium batteries pretty quickly, but I hate running engines on a sailboat, so our supplemental plan is to use a hydro-generator.

I had no previous experience with hydro-generators before we purchased Wildling, but Outremer has been using the Watt & Sea generators for a while with good results, and a lot of the round the world race boats use them, so I decided to give one a try. These systems are very expensive, and they appear pretty fragile, so I was a bit skeptical about how well they would hold up in a long distance cruising environment.

Although we haven’t used ours extensively yet, we have used it quite a bit and so I can provide some initial feedback on how it’s going. What I can say for sure, is that it really works well on our boat. Between the solar panels and the hydro, we can keep our batteries fully charged without needing to run the engines. The downside of the hydo is that it of course won’t do anything at anchor, but we use less energy at anchor and usually don’t need any more than the solar to keep us topped up. Long periods of no sun will require running the engines though, which is still better than having a generator in my opinion.

Because of the speeds our boat reaches, we can’t use the cruising version of the Watt & Sea hydro generator. The high rpm destroys the turbine blades, and I know of at least one other 5X that had this problem. The racing version that we have is more expensive (of course!) but it has smaller, adjustable pitch blades that are continuously regulated by a hydraulic actuator depending on charging load and boat speed, so the turbine blades last longer. The downside of the racing version is that it really only produces a meaningful output above 8 knots of boat speed, and I have heard from other owners that the blades will still strip out over time, so you have to carry one or two spare blade kits. The turbine blades will not survive much of an impact either, so spare blades are a good idea no matter what.

Here’s a video that Lindsay and I made on our last trip to show how we have our hydro-gen setup. So far, I’m very happy with it, and I’ll post an update when we have done some more miles.

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