French father and son rescued in yacht race drama

A French father and son sailing team were rescued today after a freak wave knocked them overboard as they raced to the notorious Fastnet rock.

The pair, Laurent Bonniot and his son Guillaume, had been competing in a fleet of 75 yachts from Brittany when the accident happened seven miles from Baltimore, Co Cork.

Lifeboats crews who reached the stricken vessel just before 3am praised the sailors for taking safety precautions which helped them clamber back on board after the wave hit.

The father, aged 51, and son, aged 31, will stay in Baltimore until their boat is repaired.

“We wish to thank the lifeboat crew for their assistance. They were very quick and professional. We felt very supported and of course there was great chat between us,” Guillaume said.

The RNLI said the fleet was sailing through severe conditions with southerly winds gusting to 25 knots.

The pair, who were wearing safety harnesses, were left stranded when the large wave hit knocked them off the 20ft Mini Transat yacht, smashed the mast and threw the yacht into darkness.

Seventy-five boats were taking part in the race across the Celtic Sea from Douarnenez to Fastnet and back which began on Sunday.

Baltimore RNLI Coxswain Keiron Cotter praised the safety precautions the experienced sailors had taken.

“When we received the call in the early hours this morning we were very anxious to get to the yacht as quickly as possible,” the crewman said.

“The men were experienced sailors and had taken excellent safety precautions including the wearing of harnesses.

“This meant that when they were washed off their yacht they were able to re-board it quickly. Sadly they were unable to complete the race but they have been receiving some Baltimore hospitality before they head home.”

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