@teamtigress on Jua Kali - A day in the life of a ‘Jua Kali’ on racing yacht @teamtigress on Jua Kali - Them’s the ‘Brakes’...

A day in the life of a ‘Jua Kali’ on racing yacht @teamtigress on Jua Kali - Them’s the ‘Brakes’...

The ‘brakes’ have gone on; and the Atlantic nearly always brings ‘breaks’ of some form. Breaking of equipment and the breaking of hopes.

Yesterday having held 2nd place in Racing Class B and 3rd in Racing overall, we dramatically fell off the podium after losing steerage at 6am. As a sailor who sails or races many miles annually, you become resigned to the fact that eventually many of the biggies in the ‘I don’t want to think about it box’ (dismasting, rudder loss, MOB etc) will catch up with you. Last year I lost my mast on the Fastnet race and this morning we lost steerage at 8knts downwind in the dark, 900 miles from land, on the ARC Race.

Prior to leaving Las Palmas, one of our crew Veronique commented on the name of the boat we are passaging in for this years ARC, which is not our own. Apparently a “Jua Kali” is a tribal term for a man who can fix anything. She can’t remember what tribe or where this term comes from, feel free to google; we can’t as our Iridium dial up doesn’t permit us fleet broadband service unfortunately...So it could be nonsense but it’s a nice story if it’s not.

Anyhow, at 4pm yesterday, after the frightening spin out in the morning, then the further problem of a trailing line wrapping itself around the rudder of the boat whilst sailing with the emergency steering gear, we eventually got on our way again. I managed to fix the steering system with a section of dynaema and some of my fathers engineering spirit: to not give up til you get to the route of a problem and solve it.

The 8 hour incident got me thinking about the name ‘Jua Kali’, but of course, in this instance, referencing a ‘woman’ who has to be able to fix anything! Three days ago we lost our pole track from the mast, which seriously impeded our speed capability allowing the rest of the racing fleet to pull up behind us fast. We then had to try different methods to use our sails to the best of our ability to stay in this race, which we were just about managing to do. Yesterday, when we lost the steering, it was game over for our podium finish as our contenders shot past us in the mileage stakes; which you can imagine was very demoralising when we have raced our socks of for 2000 miles and held a strong second since the start of the race 10 days ago. But we are now racing on.

But let me get back to ‘Jua Kali.’ I have never had a steering failure before and certainly not one 950 miles from land. I am very familiar with the steering system on my own vessel, but suddenly was presented with the situation of running under emergency steering, on a vessel that has twin wheels and a more complicated system than my own single column helm. Of course there was a massive squall approaching too....of course there was 🙄🙈 The part of the cable that snapped was ‘obviously’ housed inside the “really easy to access” steering columns, which involved detaching two pedestals from the deck, to then find a clamp set missing from the replacement cables set. As a ‘Jua Kali’ not fixing this was not an option; and so I got to work on splicing in a dynaema line as a make do replacement cable instead. The crew were brilliant; fetching and carrying bits, holding tension on things, to help centre up the steering system. Eight hours later, during which time we had been pointing at a 240cog on the stick, we eventually got underway again on our two wheel system. Sad to be displaced from our podium race position, but glad to be heading to St Lucia once more; and no longer panicked by making water on our hand held pump, that was hopefully going to carry us through til we made land fall many weeks later under stick steering; probably in Brazil or Patagonia given our track steering with a tiny steel tiller in a big sea. 🙈😱

In Las Palmas this year, I bumped into one of the ARC volunteers on the pontoon with whom I have sailed with before in the Solent. He said to me, “you must be able to do this crossing standing on your head by now!” My response was “the Atlantic always throws you a new playing card every year and that you should never take the crossing for granted”.

How right I was.

Susan Glenny
Skipper and Team Captain
@teamtigress on Jua Kali