Yesterday afternoon we were having a very pleasant afternoon sail making 8+ knots with the spinnaker. We had been experiencing three beautiful days of sailing under nearly ideal conditions. No rain, just enough wind to move along nicely, and following seas. The winds had picked up slightly, but not too strong at all. We have flown the spinnaker at much higher winds and speeds for days at a time.
Suddenly we heard a loud bang and I jumped up to watch the spinnaker slowly falling down – actually, only the lower two thirds of the sail was peeling down as it tore in half. Apparently, something wore through and snapped under pressure. I haven’t figured out what yet. We ran to the front of the boat and quickly lowered the top portion of the sail and the sock so it would slow us down more. Although, having two thirds of the sail dragging in the water had already slowed us. We had to cut the starboard tack spectra line of the sail, and then pull up the sheet line to let the rest of the sail free from underneath the boat. We then had a floating mass of sail next to the boat. We pulled it up over the lifelines (being careful not to tear anything more). Within a few minutes we had everything up on the deck. Then we put it all away in the sailbag.
Tahina’s spinnaker in the water
So, we don’t have a spinnaker to sail with until we can get to a sailmaker to repair the sail (we hope it can be repaired). I’m really puzzled why it happened. We have always been very careful with the spinnaker because it is such a great downwind sail.
We got our regular sails up and were soon moving along, but a knot or so slower. Given that the winds picked up a bit during the night, we could have gone quite a bit faster if the spinnaker was still available. Now, instead of arriving in the morning, we’ll arrive mid-afternoon.
We might be able to find a sailmaker in Tonga. But, it might be better to wait until New Zealand where there are plenty of skilled sailmakers. We probably won’t need the spinnaker on the sail to New Zealand anyway – since it is generally not a downwind sail.