It’s midnight and the gale is still upon us. We’re running down the coast of Oregon with a reefed main ; it’s blowing 40 with gusts to 47.
Alaska Eagle is boiling along at 12 knots, occasionally hitting 16 or more as she slides off one of the 20-foot waves made especially steep by Oregon’s shallow coastal shelf.
We ‘re being forced onto the coast on port tack with Trinidad Head just three miles away.
It’s time to jibe, something I haven ‘t been looking forward to considering the tremendous force that will be put on the rigging when the mainsail comes rocketing across the deck .
Alaska Eagle’s Pacific Cruise Situations like these test sail-training instructors and their students.
On this pitchblack night it’s hard to hear above the roar as Alaska Eagle’s 60,000 pounds carve a 16-foot wide groove through an angry ocean.
From the nine students aboard, I choose three of the strongest and most agi le for working the mainsheet.
Alaska Eagle’s Pacific Cruise We briefly discuss the maneuver in the safety of the cockpit.
We ‘ve jibed the boat many times since the voyage began, and their new skills will be put to the test. Instructions given,
they move forward into the dark , their harness shackles clanking behind them.
” OK, sheet in! ” I shout. Chuck and Jim grind away as Ken tails the mainsheet on the stainless drum. It’s not an easy job, sheeting the mainsail toward centerline in a force 8 gale.
As the boom comes inboard, I steer Alaska Eagle off to leeward on a big wave: ” Jibing! ” After a hefty roll to windward, she spins dutifully to starboard. With a mighty crack,
the main pounds to port, the sheet runs out in a split second until fetching up on the leeward shrouds.
Safe on the new tack, Alaska Eagle flies out to sea, away from the dangers of a notorious coastline.
Returning to the cockpit, the crew are understandably in awe of the jibe’s violence.
Jibing a sixtyfi ve footer in a gale is no mean feat for students or experienced ocean racers.
Designed and built for the Whitbread Round the World Race , Alaska Eagle won the 1977-78 Whitbread as Flyer.
Purchased by Alaskan businessman Niel G. Bergt in 1980 and renamed Alaska Eagle, she was reconditioned for the 1981-82 Whitbread.
Bergt donated her to the sailing program of Orange Coast College with the request that she be used exclusively for sail-training. Since then,
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