Yacht salvage expected off Cork


Efforts to salvage a boat that capsized off the Co Cork coast yesterday evening while participating in the Fastnet yacht race are expected to begin this afternoon.

Twenty-one people on board the US-registered boat, Rambler 100 were rescued when the yacht capsized early last night in foggy but not very rough conditions.

The Baltimore RNLI lifeboat was called first to the scene with the successful rescue operation being co-ordinated by the Irish Coast Guard services. Coast Guard Sikorsky helicopters from Shannon and Waterford were also called in to help with the rescue effort, as was the LE Ciara naval vessel while the Army had transport on standby in Cork.

Sixteen crew members were picked up and brought in by the RNLI Baltimore lifeboat. Five of the crew were swept away by the waves including skipper George David, a former chairman of United Technologies, and his partner Wendy Touton. These five were in the water for at least two and a half hours until picked up by a local fishing boat, the Wave Chieftain.

Ms Touton, who was admitted to Tralee General hospital after being winched to safety, is described as being in a serious condition.

The LE Ciara remains standing off the capsized yacht as it has been deemed a navigational hazard. Efforts to salvage the boat are due to start later today.

Some 314 yachts — including six Irish boats — began the Rolex Fastnet Race, having set sail from Cowes on the Isle of Wight on Sunday.

At the time it capsized, Rambler 100 were leading the monohull fleet and vying for monohull line honours in the race.

"Soon after rounding the Fastnet Rock, the wind went southwest, right on the nose. We were beating into big seas, launching Rambler off the top of full size waves," said the boat's project manager Mick Harvey. "

"I was down below with navigator, Peter Isler when we heard the sickening sound of the keel breaking off. It was instantaneous; there was no time to react. The boat turned turtle, just like a dinghy capsizing. Peter Isler issued a Mayday and we got out of there as quickly as we could."

The Fastnet Race, regarded as the one of the oldest offshore yacht races in the world, first took place in 1925.

The 608-mile race passes Land’s End before turning north-north-west and across the Celtic Sea towards West Cork. Participants round the famous lighthouse three miles off Cape Clear Island before heading to their ultimate destination of Plymouth.

The majority of the crews participating are amateur and club racers.

A total of 15 people died during the race in 1979 when the fleet was caught in violent weather and sea conditions between Lands End and Fastnet.

A memorial stone listing the 15 names was erected on Cape Clear’s North Harbour in time for the 25th anniversary which was held on the island in 2004.

Prior to 1979 the Fastnet Race had a good safety record with one crewman lost overboard in 1931.

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney said the rescue was a reminder how important it is for Ireland to have well-resourced sea rescue teams.

“This was a dramatic sea rescue that was coordinated with speed and professionalism and everybody involved should be commended for their efforts,” he said.

“The Fastnet race is one of the most high-profile offshore yacht races in the world and Rambler 100 is one of the best-known racing yachts on the planet. This incident will be reported in the international press and we can be proud of the way in which Irish emergency services contributed to preventing any loss of life," Mr Coveney added.