It was about 6:30 p.m. local time on Monday when the Irish coast guard received an EPIRB signal from the U.S.-flagged racing yacht Rambler 100. She had just capsized about 16 miles from Baltimore, County Cork, between the turning mark of Fastnet Rock and the Pantaenius Buoy.
Rambler was competing in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial Fastnet Race after setting a course record earlier this summer in the Transatlantic Race from Newport, R.I., to Lizard Point in the United Kingdom.
The Irish coast guard and navy, Baltimore Lifeboat Station and other yachts responded to Rambler’s call. The search was hampered by misty, rainy conditions in visibility of less than a mile. Winds were gusting to Force 6, and a 15-foot swell was running.
Click play to watch a Sky News report on the capsize, including an interview with one of the rescuers.
Click play to watch as a crewmember recounts the ordeal in a local tavern.
According to rescuers, Rambler’s keel broke shortly after it passed Fastnet Rock and capsized within 15 seconds, throwing everyone overboard. “We were beating into big seas, launching Rambler off the top of full-size waves," says Rambler project manager Mick Harvey. “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. Isler issued a mayday and we got out of there as quickly as we could.”
All 21 crewmembers on Rambler reportedly were wearing life jackets. Those who were on deck were able to clamber over the lifelines and onto the overturned hull, helping the sailors who wound up in the water. However, the swell made it difficult for everyone to get out, and five, including skipper George David and partner Wendy Touton, were swept away from the boat.
They linked arms to form a circle, but ended up in the water for two-and-a-half hours. The coast guard diverted a local fishing boat to rescue them. Touton was suffering from hypothermia and was airlifted to a hospital. The four others were taken to Baltimore Harbour, where they were reunited with the rest of the Rambler crew, who had been rescued by the Baltimore Lifeboat Station.
Rambler 100, a supermaxi, was designed by Argentinean Juan Kouyoumdjian and launched as Speedboat in 2008. After a series of modifications, the yacht changed hands and names and now is campaigned by David, who lives in Hartford, Conn., and is the former chairman and chief executive of United Technologies Corp.
The Fastnet Race takes the fleet 608 miles along the U.K.’s south coast and across the Celtic Sea to Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland, returning to Plymouth around the Isles of Scilly. A total of 314 boats started the race Sunday off Cowes on the Isle of Wight, beating the previous record turnout of 303 entries in the notorious 1979 race, during which 15 sailors died in a violent storm.
The French 140-foot trimaran Banque Populaire V, skippered by Loick Peyron, crossed the finish line in Plymouth on Monday at 7:48 p.m. local time to win the race on elapsed time and establish a new course record of 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes, averaging 18.5 knots. Peyron bested his own record, which stood at 1 day, 16 hours, 27 minutes, set with the trimaran Fujicolor in 1999.
The monohull record also fell. The Volvo Open 70 Abu Dhabi, skippered by double Olympic silver medalist Ian Walker, took 1 hour and 39 minutes off ICAP Leopard’s record of 1 day, 20 hours, 18 minutes.