Owner bids to tow stricken yacht after dramatic rescue off Cork

The owner of a €17m yacht which capsized mid-race off the Cork coast has decided to attempt to tow it to shore.

The owner of a €17m yacht which capsized mid-race off the Cork coast has decided to attempt to tow it to shore.

George David, one of five crew thrown into the Atlantic after his Rambler 100 suddenly flipped over during the Fastnet race off Co Cork, has asked a local tug boat to lead the difficult salvage.

Divers hope to secure ropes to the 100 foot yacht and tow it upside down 15 miles into the sheltered Bantry Bay, where a decision can be made on what to do with the 40ft mast.

Gerry Smith, skipper of the Wave Chieftain who rescued five of the crew from the sea last night, including skipper Mr David, said salvaging such a huge vessel would be a tough operation.

“It will have to be put into a position were you get up and remove the rigging and get it ready for moving,” he said.

“You have a 40ft mast and with all the associated rigging. It will be tomorrow before it will be brought in.”

Mr Smith took out Mr David and a dive team to inspect the wreckage and attempt to recover passports and some other personal items from the cabin.

The ocean-going yacht, which was competing at the head of the renowned Fastnet Race when disaster struck, has drifted five miles west since it flipped over south-west of the lighthouse rock at about 6pm yesterday.

Sean Harrington, of Atlantic Towage, based at Bere Island, Co Cork, was beside the yacht awaiting the go-ahead to begin the tow.

Speaking from on board the tug, Ocean Bank, he described conditions at sea as moderate.

“We will be going through the night and it will probably be early tomorrow morning by the time we get there” he said.

“But we won’t know what speed we will be able to do until we start pulling. We will take a look at the mast when we get to Bantry bay - It’s more sheltered there.”

Linking arms to stay together

Skipper Mr David and his partner Wendy Touton were two of the five crew thrown into the Atlantic swell.

All five linked arms to stay together in the Atlantic swell for several hours in poor visibility last night.

Ms Touton was airlifted to Kerry Hospital after suffering severe hypothermia but has recovered well and was released from hospital.

Another 16 crew members sat on the hull of the upturned yacht awaiting rescue by the RNLI.

Some crew members had been asleep when it capsized and were said to have been lucky to get out.

Mick Harvey, the entry’s project manager and a hardened sailor, said he would never forget the harrowing incident.

“It was a scary moment, one that I will never forget. I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am that all of the crew are safe,” the Australian sailor said.

“Five of the crew were swept away by the waves out of reach of the stricken yacht... The group linked arms, forming a circle.”

The Rambler 100 was leading the monohull fleet and vying for victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race when disaster struck 16 miles (26km) from Baltimore, Co Cork, just before 6pm yesterday.

Mr Harvey said: “Soon after rounding the Fastnet Rock, the wind went south-west, right on the nose. We were beating into big seas, launching Rambler off the top of full-size waves.

“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.”

Transport Minister 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 co-ordinated with speed and professionalism and everybody involved should be commended for their efforts,” he said.

“Most importantly, my response is one of relief that there was no loss of life, which considering the size and speed of the yacht and the conditions at the time, is a minor miracle. I hope everyone involved will make a full recovery.”

The crew were looked after by locals in Baltimore, west Cork last night.

“The town of Baltimore has given us a wonderful welcome – I cannot thank our rescuers and the people of this lovely village enough,” Mr Harvey said.

Naval vessel the LE Aoife was standing off the capsized yacht to keep other vessels out of danger.

Some 314 yachts – including six Irish boats – are taking part in the Rolex Fastnet Race, having set sail from Cowes on the Isle of Wight on Sunday.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club’s biennial event takes the fleet 978.5km along the south coast of the UK and across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock off south-west Ireland, before returning around the Scilly Isles to the finish in Plymouth.

The event has a fearsome reputation after the 1979 race which was devastated by strong winds and seas, resulting in 15 deaths.

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