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X-Yachts AUS X4 728 - 2

A riot on Riot - Skipper tells

by Des Ryan on 23 Nov 2011
Riot crew, happy to have arrived - photo by Tamell Simons SW
Sometimes it's just sheer determination that gets you home. The North American Cruising Rally, which set out from Rhode Island on 30th October heading for Bermuda, was beset by late-developing Tropical Storm Sean. Riot, a 50ft Ketch, shredded its sails, lost steering, engine, bimini and anchor chain, but still made it into Bermuda. Here's the story as told by skipper Coleman Bowen:

It started out great, first day flew the geneker all day and shredded!

The next day and a half there was no wind until we got through the gulf stream where it proceeded to blow 25-40. That 40 kts stayed with us until we arrived in Bermuda and it is still ripping.

Unfortunately it was 40 kts just off our bow so we ripped the main but with just the staysail were averaging about 5.5 kts.

It was everything but uneventful - we lost steering in three different ways:

First our cable had too much slack so we had to make a minor repair to counter that.
A couple of hours later the chain in the steering pedestal snapped which left us using the varnished emergency tiller.
We rigged up a system so we could drive the tiller from the primary winches in the cockpit and it worked great, didnt have to touch anything for 12 hours.

After getting knocked below our course, we furled the staysail and started the engine. With all of the heeling and rocking with the 20-25 ft waves, air snuck into the fuel lines and the engine stalled out.
After bleeding the lines, we were trucking again with about 70 miles to go.

Around 2 am on Sunday, Coleman and Ryan were on watch and witnessed a gust of 55 kts, which tore the dodger off the boat and launched it towards them. We removed it and the bimini and gave it to the ocean as a gift before it could injure us.

As we approached St George's harbor at 4 am on Monday, the tiller snapped at the base and we narrowly missed the rock entrance.

We motored out to sea with three crew members wrestling with the 5 inches of tiller left and dropped our anchor.

Twenty mins later as we were all down below and starting to calm down, we heard a snap and the anchor and chain were gone. With no more chain or line to use, we motored back and forth at the entrance to the harbor waiting for the pilot vessel to escort us in.

After four failed attempts all resulting in snapped tow lines, they tried to side tow us which we told them was a terrible idea. They proceeded to cause a considerable amount of damage to RIOT so we decided to rig up a similar system that we had used before the tiller broke.

We stuck it in there and succesfully made it into the harbor!

Lets just say everyone was quite pleased to be securely tied to a dock! We'll be making a damage list and repair schedule, but it looks like we will be in Bermuda until we get at least our steering situation settled.

Not the worst place to be stuck in!'


We omitted to mention that skipper Coleman is 23 years of age, and said after the journey, 'She is a pretty old ship and we had done some renovations, but pretty much everything we didn’t replace seemed to break'.

Well done, Coleman, you just need to do the rest of the renovations and she'll be a good boat!

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Editor's Note:
Other yachts in the rally did not fare as well as Riot. One yacht was abandoned to the sea and its four crew rescued. Another yacht, Island Packet Triple Stars, tragically lost one of its crew overboard when a rogue wave washed her through the bimini.
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