Twenty-one saved after capsize of 100ft yacht

A dramatic rescue operation took place last night when, leading the monohull fleet in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the American Maxi yacht Rambler 100 overturned at around 1730hrs just south of the Fastnet Rock off County Cork, Ireland.

Australian crew member Mick Harvey later reported: ‘Soon after rounding the Fastnet Rock, the wind went southwest, 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.’

Altered by the yacht’s EPIRB, the Irish Coastguard scrambled two Sikorsky helicopters and a naval vessel, but first on the scene was the Baltimore RNLI lifeboat, which was already out on exercise in the area. After a search hampered by poor visibility the stricken 30.5m vessel was found, with 16 of her crew atop the upturned hull and the remaining five – including the skipper George David – missing.

While the lifeboat retrieved the 16, another Baltimore lifeboatman, Jerry Smith, had taken out his dive boat to join the search and spotted the five, who had linked arms to group themselves together for safety. One, Wendy Touton, was airlifted away for medical attention due to hypothermia while the other four, who had been in the water for

hours, were taken to Baltimore Harbour where they were reunited with their crewmates.

All the crew are safe with Wendy Touton recovering well in Kerry Hospital.

Meanwhile the race continued, with the 42.6m (140ft) trimaran Banque Populaire setting a new course record when she reached Plymouth last night in a time of 32 hours and 48 minutes. This year 314 yachts entered the Fastnet Race which started on Sunday 14 August from Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard