Saturday, October 12, 2013

EUROPA looses mizzen topmast in squall off coast of Australia

In August, 2013, I joined the Bark EUROPA in Fremantle and sailed along the Australian Bight.
Choosing to sail in that latitude in winter was questioned by a few hardy sailors I know.
Low pressure systems and storms roll in from the west together with icy blasts coming directly from Antarctica.
Yet, despite the forecasts, the weather was perfect for the fleet of tall ships who were heading for Melbourne and later Hobart and Sydney as part of the Tall Ship’s Festivals and Races. It was cold, but there was little rain and the winds were coming from the right direction.
At times, EUROPA creamed along at 9.5 knots. It was an unforgettable and uneventful (as far as mishaps is concerned) journey.
Not so, however, the conditions which EUROPA and the other ships were confronted with when they crossed Bass Strait heading north from Hobart and neared the south east coast of Australia.

A ferocious squall blew in, bringing EUROPA’S mizzen topmast crashing down and breaking two booms on OOSTERSCHELDE.
Here is the report of the incident which appears on OOSTERSHELDE’S website.
1 October 2013 - Oosterschelde in a squall of coast of Australia.
We decided to wait for the front that was coming our way and then sail to Sydney with wind coming from the west. With a nice sun and barely any wind we lifted the anchor and sailed slowly to Gabo Island, the southeast cape of Australia. The ‘Europa’ joined us and together we passed by the cape. Slowly, because we prepared the ship by reefing all the sails. The dark sky behind us foretold the ominous change of weather.
The next thing we knew it was chaos. Out of nowhere a huge gust of wind fell over the ship. One moment we had wind from the northwest of 5 knots and the other moment it was southwest with 55 knots! Before we could say anything the preventers of the foresail and the mainsail snapped and with a big bang both sails jibed which caused both booms to splinter. The sea, even so close to shore, builds up quickly and with big waves we swing from side to side. Despite the broken boom we did not dare to take down the foresail. Luckily the sail did not tear and we all pulled together and managed to take away the main sail and secured what was left of the booms. With only the foresail we did 9 knots. The wind is now over its peak. We have a storm jib and a very small mizzen due to three reefs, the sun started shining and we are licking our wounds. No one got hurt and in the end it could have been worse, but we will have a lot of work to do in Sydney making two new booms.

Fortunately, despite the damage, all vessels made it safely into Sydney Harbour and arrived in time for the impressive sight of the arrival of 18 tall ships.
During the time in port, repairs were undertaken and two days ago the fleet left Sydney heading for New Zealand.
From there, some of the more hardy vessels, including the three Dutch Tall Ships, will set sail for the mammoth voyage to Cape Horn. After doubling the Horn they will sail to the Falkland Islands as part of their circumnavigation of the globe.
Bon voyage and a safe voyage to all the intrepid voyage crew on board.
Pics of Europa and of damaged ship from a crew member of Oosterschelde.

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