Divers to probe stricken yacht as crew thanks rescuers and locals
Skipper mystified as to how race vessel overturned
Published 17/08/2011 | 05:00
DIVERS will this morning explore the interior of a capsized yacht in a bid to recover personal items and ship's logs.
Last night the Fastnet Race challenger Rambler 100 was anchored off Mizen Head, Co Cork, connected to a tug boat.
A team of divers will enter the hull at 9am today before plans to tow the stricken vessel to shore get under way.
The yacht, which capsized late on Monday evening, will be brought to either Castletownbere or Cork after its owner insisted it should be salvaged.
The crew of the yacht were yesterday recovering from their ordeal in the west Cork village of Baltimore.
Sixteen crew members were rescued after being found huddled on the upturned hull of the €18m yacht on Monday evening. Five others were recovered from the water, where they were clinging to a life raft.
The Rambler's owner and skipper, US multimillionaire George David (65), said he was relieved everyone was safe.
When the keel fractured, there was a sound like "a bang or a rocket going off", and the boat capsized off the Fastnet Rock, 16 miles south-west of Baltimore.
"We don't know how it happened -- it (the keel) is made of stainless steel so we don't know exactly how it could have given way," Mr David said.
Yesterday, he accompanied other Rambler crew members and marine experts to the site to see whether any personal possessions, including passports, could be retrieved.
An attempt will now be made by a salvage tug to tow the stricken yacht to port for repairs.
Five crew members were asleep or resting in the cabin when the vessel capsized and they had to scramble to safety in just 20 seconds.
Joe Fanelli (44), a US Coastguard member, was one of the five who found themselves in the sea.
"We just couldn't make it back to the main group. We had jumped overboard but just couldn't manage to swim back to Rambler because of the wind and waves," he said.
Earl Williams from Auckland in New Zealand was at the helm when the keel fractured.
"I have been sailing all my life and I have never ended up in the water like this before. I have to admit that it was pretty scary," he said.
After being rescued, the crew -- who are from the US, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Puerto Rico -- admitted they were "absolutely astonished" as the Baltimore RNLI lifeboat rounded the headland and the pier came into view shortly after 9pm.
Renowned sailor Pete Islers said the crew felt it got a warmer reception than if it had won the Fastnet Race, as local residents rushed down to the pierside with spare clothing, hot meals, drinks and offers of accommodation.
One crew member, Wendy Toutan from the US, was last night recovering from hypothermia in Kerry General Hospital after being pulled from the water.
Sheila Thompson was among those who co-ordinated the massive volunteer effort.
"The doctors had told us it was very important to get hot food into the crew once they had hot showers and had gotten into dry clothing," she said.
The Baltimore Sailing Centre put itself at the crew's disposal for bunks and showers and Bush's Bar provided sandwiches and hot soup.
Mr David, meanwhile, said he was overwhelmed by the kindness. "We are very grateful to those involved in the rescue effort who were so capable but also all those people locally who were very kind to us when we came ashore," he said.
"We really cannot believe how kind people have been and it is something we will not forget."
Mr David has vowed to return to Baltimore to repay the kindness.
Rambler's bowman, Justin Clougher from Australia, yesterday took the chance to give impromptu sailing drills to local youngsters and holidaymakers as his way of saying thanks.
American Pete Islers offered rigging lessons at the local sailing school and other crew members have vowed to undertake some fundraising for Baltimore RNLI, whose lifeboat is 24 years' old, and which is the focus of a campaign to develop a new €7m lifeboat station.
Visibility at the time of the incident was so poor that three other yachts in the race sped past the stricken Rambler without noticing the crew's plight.
Fortunately, the Baltimore RNLI lifeboat, under coxswain Kieran Cotter, was in the area on exercises and responded immediately when the coastguard's Valentia radio station picked up an emergency transmission from the yacht.
AquaVenture dive operator Gerry Smith was working near Cape Clear at the time and also raced to the scene.
He located the five crew members in the water and pulled them to safety.