Farr Responds to Kiwi Spirit Failures

Photo courtesy Billy Black

Photo courtesy Billy Black

Okay, well chalk this one up as an embarrassing journalistic mistake on my part - as Patrick Shaughnessy points out in an email to me this morning (and as several commenters here noted), I should have gotten in touch with him first. My post last night was strictly reactionary, and in hindsight probably could have used a bit of 'thinking before speaking' (though it still conveys my gut reaction, which I stand by).  At any rate, consider this a public apology. There might be a reason my friend Rodney Carroll calls me 'Ready, Fire, Aim Andy'. As Patrick points out, 'we can all do better next time.'

I also spoke with Offshore Spars, who had a little bit more info, which I'll post when I organize it. For now I can say that they know the boat definitely crash gybed at least once. it's unclear if the preventer was rigged, but they were definitely onboard, setup to go from the end of the boom to the bow, pretty standard.

Anyway, here's Patrick from Farr:

"Your negative commentary on the Kiwi Spirit retirement is over sensationalized and unnecessary. In response to your comments I would offer the following;

I made no comment on the chainplate design. The design of the chainplate is of itself perfectly suited to the task. I did comment on Dr Paris’ jury rigged repair to the storm jib stay’s pin retaining system which was attempted after the pin’s retaining nut was lost. The jury rigged repair, was on what was soon to be a key sail in the Southern Ocean and was inadequate. [Note: see the photos of this repair, made with a C-clamp on Kiwi Spirit's Facebook Page.]

I did not, and cannot comment on the sheave box failure in the boom end. I did comment on the jury rigged solution for the mainsheet and reefing system, both of which I felt were inadequate for potentially dangerous conditions in the Southern Ocean. Note that the mainsail itself had already been compromised after several battens were broken and replaced with fishing rods. In addition to the high likelihood of chafe related failure in the jury rigged boom end solution, there looked to be a an undesirable leech loading scenario on the mainsail itself which may have then lead to further batten failures.

The point of my recommendation to abandon the attempt was to avoid sailing unprepared into dangerous conditions. Dr Paris’ decision to abandon his record attempt should be applauded rather than mocked. He was brave enough to make a good decision which seems increasingly rare these days. When someone ventures unprepared into a dangerous situation they put their own life at risk as well as those who will be brave enough to attempt their rescue. 

In any case, none of the failures were design failures attributed to Farr Yacht Design, so your comment to that effect is misplaced and should be retracted.

If you wanted to make something constructive out of the situation you would instead focus on how good decision making can avoid potential disasters."

Thanks to Patrick for replying to my email. I will now insert my foot into my mouth.

I do however need to clear up that I was not mocking Paris' decision to abandon. In fact, I think it was the right one, and a difficult one at that. What I thought was 'ridiculous' was the notion that the boat wasn't up to snuff, when it was purpose-built and designed for the trip. There still remains to be seen an explanation for the failures, but I appreciate the response from Farr.