The RTE TV survival show Cabin Fever turned to reality tonight when the ship carrying nine contestants ran aground on rocks off Co Donegal.
Cabin Fever – billed by producers as the biggest series of the summer - was washed up near Tory Island after less than a week on air.
All nine contestants and two crew members were helped to shore as the 27m long vessel broke up.
Producers vowed that the reality television show would still go to air this weekend.
Stuart Switzer of Coco Productions said it was “one of the saddest sights” he had ever seen.
He said: “The back of the boat has broken and it is actually in two pieces and the waves are knocking the planks and timber around.
“There is debris all over the water and all over the shore.”
He said TV chiefs still had no idea how the accident happened.
And he added: “The positive news of this awful story is that all of our contestants are safe.
“At the end of the day the boat is only wood and metal.
“It is very sad, it does bring a tear to your eye, but our contestants are safe.
“The programme will go to air and Cabin Fever will continue.
“This show will go on. We’re not sure how yet but it will go on.”
Rescue workers said the vessel was 50% broken up.
A spokesman added: “There will be nothing left of it by morning. The boat is rapidly breaking up.”
The tall ship had been carrying 10 contestants around the coast of Ireland for eight weeks as they competed for a cash prize.
Producers had promised Cabin Fever would make its predecessor show look like “a trip to the seaside“.
They sent five men and five women and two experienced skippers on the journey earlier this month, with plans to stop off at a different port every week.
It first went to air last Sunday after a few days at sea.
When difficulties began at around 1.30pm today crew members sent out a distress call, before removing seven passengers.
A lifeboat tried to pull the ship off the rocks and a portable pump was dropped on to it from a helicopter.
It was hoped that a high tide may help the captain to refloat the boat.
But it soon became apparent that the ship was badly damaged and the remaining passengers were taken off by helicopter.
One even decided to swim ashore to Tory Island.
Mr Switzer said safety standards on the ship were high.
He said: “I don’t know the whole situation around this accident but it wouldn’t have anything to do with the 10 contestants.
“People sail around Ireland all the time.”
He said there were two “very competent and highly professional sailors” on board, and that the owner of the vessel was confident it could be sailed single-handedly.
“I think it is a misreading of a chart, it’s something of that nature,” he said.
The Dept of the Marine had done two surveys on the vessel and the crew had undergone sea survival training.