The procedure would normally be to de-feather the prop and then to releasing the brake. The engineer told me afterwards that this procedure is hard-coded into the system by Kamewa (Rolls Royce), so I am not sure why it is done that way but it is bound to be for a good reason. In any case, they had probably not thought about the impact of de-feathering while running at 17 knots and the result was that the brake started slipping and then tore off its seat. Luckily, it also tore off the hydraulic hose and so the brake opened, thereby preventing it from going round with the shaft. When the brake started to slip it caused a lot of white smoke to come up the engine room vents and this was noticed, quickly, precipitating a call to the engineer to go the engine room.
For safety sake the captain decided to signal a fire alarm and we mustered in the designated place (as instructed in a general briefing before we went out that morning). Engineers quickly reported that all was fine, it was not a widespread problem, but meanwhile the boat had been pointing upwind for a considerable period of time and the crew, having had to muster also, were now facing a jam in the first reef point sheet. They were facing 35 kts of wind and were trying to get the mainsail down, when we noticed a small rip in the first segment. Luckily for us, this did not ruin the day, because we never needed the full main after that point anyway.
I did not see what happened to Maltese Falcon during all of this, but I noticed that she was now windward of us and quite close. She could not have known what we were trying to do and that she was now, inadvertently, blocking our ability to complete the tack, so at that point the captain looked at my father who was signaling “down” and he agreed and the main was taken down. I then spoke to several people who said, while we were mustering, MF tacked, but seemed to have caught a big gust as she swung her sails (cross-booms?) across which would have appeared to have caused her to scrub off a lot of speed, almost to the point of looking like she was in reverse. My engineer (who is friendly with MF’s engineer) said “Wow I bet they never did THAT before.“, but having read their web site blog, I think they have done just about everything. It was frustrating to be sitting there like that, but we learned something from all of it and so did the crew, who had not had much practice in 35+ knots of wind. We will be speaking with Kamewa about changing the procedure and we will also investigate improving the use of the reef winches and downhauls for the mainsail. So, it all went pear shaped for about 10 minutes, but all was forgiven that afternoon when she went like a train!