'We've lost a bit of history'

Thirty people have been rescued after the tall ship they were on hit rocks and sunk off the south coast of Ireland.

It is believed the 42-metre (137ft) Dutch training vessel, the Astrid, had lost power on the western entrance to Kinsale Harbour in Cork and was blown onto the rocks by a strong southerly wind.

There

was a two metre swell and winds were force five to six.

A major emergency

operation, involving the RNLI and coastguard, began at midday.

Four

RNLI lifeboats from Kinsale,

Crosshaven, Courtmacsherry and Ballycotton were launched to attend Astrid, which had hit rocks inside the Sovereign

Islands at Ballymacus Point.

Irish Coast Guard helicopters from Waterford and Shannon also attended along with ambulances and medical crews from Cork.

The grounded vessel was taking on water and a crewmember from

Kinsale RNLI was put on board. Eighteen of the casualties were taken off

the Astrid by Kinsale RNLI lifeboat and transferred to Courtmacsherry

lifeboat, before being brought to safety.

The remaining 12

were put onto a liferaft deployed by the Astrid’s crew, which was towed

to safety by the Kinsale lifeboat and picked up by a local vessel. The

people on board the liferaft were then taken to Kinsale harbour and

assessed by medical teams.

A lucky escape

Courtmacsherry RNLI Coxswain Sean O’Farrell said: ‘Everyone was very fortunate.

‘I want to praise the quick thinking of

the skipper and the crew from the Astrid.

‘They kept calm and did

everything we asked them to do. We were able to get them to safety

quickly and a major tragedy was averted.

‘To be able to recover 30

people was a great day for everyone involved. It was a great team effort

between the RNLI lifeboats and all the vessels that came to their aid.’

The Irish Coast Guard

said the vessel is now breaking up and beginning to sink.

The Astrid, which was in Weymouth, Dorset last week had visited Kinsale

on a journey from Southampton to Cherbourg in France.

Devastating news

Her former Captain Paul Compton said: ‘The Astrid has sunk off Kinsale. I’m mortified, it’s awful.

‘I understand the engine failed on entering the harbour and the wind blew her onto the rocks.

‘I was the last English Captain of the Astrid, we’ve lost a bit of history.

‘She did a fantastic job training young people, it’s a great loss to the world, really sad.’

The Astrid was built in

1918 as a lugger and up to about 1975 she carried cargo on the Baltic Sea.

After a period under the

Lebanese flag, which ended in a fire, she came into British hands and was converted into her sail training role in the 80s at Portland Harbour.

She

was completely overhauled and turned into a traditional, luxury sailing vessel.

Pictures: Tall Ship Astrid in Weymouth. Credit: Paul Dallaway

A still from a video of emergency services attending the sinking Astrid. Credit RNLI.