Salvage operation starts as divers set to inspect yacht

A DEEP-SEA tug towed the stricken super-yacht Rambler 100 to a sheltered cove on the south west coast last night ahead of a major salvage operation today.

The powerful Ocean Bank tug, skippered by Sean Harrington from Bere Island in West Cork, established a tow on the 100ft capsized yacht where it was found drifting some 6.5km from the Fastnet Rock around 2pm.

A heavy swell prevented divers from conducting a detailed inspection of the vessel and a decision was taken to tow it to a cove near Brow Head.

It was suspected that its massive mast may have come away.

The painstaking towing operation took over seven hours.

The tug anchored the yacht a few hundred yards off Brow Head around 9pm and remained alongside it in Barley Cove overnight.

The yacht’s owner, American millionaire George David, has arranged for a team of divers to inspect it this morning.

It is hoped they will be able to retrieve his crew’s passports and some of their personal belongings.

A decision will be made later on whether the vessel will be towed to Castletownbere or Cork for an attempt at righting it.

Mr David oversaw the entire operation from on board Baltimore RNLI mechanic Gerry Smith’s Wave Chieftan vessel, which left Baltimore at noon.

Mr Smith said: “It was a delicate, slow steady operation. The swell prevented divers from inspecting it but the conditions are moderating and they hope they will be able to do a proper inspection once it’s in sheltered waters.”

Mr David spoke of his shock at how his yacht’s keel snapped off during the homeward leg of Fastnet Race causing it to capsize.

“Keels do come off these boats,” he said.

“This has happened before but it’s very exceptional, and very unusual. These boats are designed not to have this happen.”

Keels are long steel fins attached to the underside of a yacht’s hull which are designed to stabilise the vessel as it slices through the waves.

The keel on his yacht was at least four metres long and had a 14-tonne lead weight at the end.

It should have been able to withstand the immense stresses as the vessel’s sails, strung from 130-foot tall masts, strained in the wind under thousands of tonnes of pressure.

But for some as yet unknown reason, the Rambler’s keel fractured as the vessel was beating into the wind having rounded the Fastnet on the homeward leg of the race to the Scilly Isles.

The first sign of the incident was when the Irish Coast Guard picked up a distress signal from a personal location beacon around 6.30pm on Monday but coastguard officers believe the vessel may have capsized 40 minutes before that.

“We were in conditions that normally you would not expect this kind of a hazard,” Mr David said.

“We were out there in 25 knots of wind, about six to eight foot of swell and we were beating, sailing into wind, which means you have more banging up and down than you would normally have.

“But I wouldn’t characterise this boat as usually stressed when it happened.

“We had a supremely competent crew on board. And the boat was completely under control until the moment when there was a loud bang.

“That fin is designed to take far worse conditions than we saw here, and that was the complete surprise. The boat was under perfect control and it just went bang.”

The capsized boat drifted about four miles overnight and it was posing a navigational hazard throughout yesterday

The LÉ Ciara stood about a quarter of mile off the vessel throughout the day, monitoring its drift and warning shipping.

It was replaced by the LÉ Aoife at around 11am, which stood down as the towing operation neared completion.

More in this section

Puzzles logo

Puzzles hub

Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd