Launching of Wildlife
Recent weeks have seen major strides in the WildlifeSAIL project, as the highly anticipated launching of WILDLIFE lifted our spirits on a breezy Wednesday afternoon on 12 September, 2001, in south-eastern France, at the Catana boat yard. After both her 6-foot tall bows were vigorously doused with the 'finest' French bubbly, WildlifeSAIL did not wait long to subject the boat to some weather. At 25 knots and 35 degrees apparent wind we pushed her hard upwind at 10 knots of boat speed. Pretty amazing for a catamaran, whose strength historically is not in facing the weather, but rather sailing on more of a reach. Her 7.6-foot deep retractable dagger boards helped the boat track and tack like a dream. No diesel assistance needed.
Finally the sun faded behind the Pyrenees Mountain range in form of a big round burgundy fireball, and we raced back home under full spinnaker, again at 10 knots, with 16 knots true wind. That afternoon our B&G maxed out at 13.4 knots on a broad reach, a delight. Not bad for a 10 ton boat on her first sea trial.
As they say, 'If it doesn't break, you built it too strong!' I believe that this idiom should not apply to masts, however. WILDLIFE's high-tech composite mast is our lifeline to safety and the success of our project, and so we were acutely concerned when, after hours of adjusting and trimming our rig before sea trial, we returned to port with our 64-foot carbon fiber mast exhibiting anything but it's intended shape. As I write these words, WILDLIFE's spars are being removed by a massive Caterpillar crane. Tomorrow the mast builder and a group of selected riggers will swarm over our problem child with ultra sound, chemical, and load tests to isolate the defect. Besides a few theories, we don't yet know what is causing the mast to adopt its ugly 'S' shape under load. It could be a faulty carbon-resin matrix, or a bad fitting in the solid-wire rig. We will see. Whatever the problem is, I know that soon we will fly again!