Bille (left) pictured at the start of 2014 Cape Town to Rio yacht race
A sailor has died, several more have been injured and at least two vessels are returning home after the Cape2Rio fleet hit a violent storm during its first night at sea.
The 35-strong fleet set sail at 2pm on Saturday, but were lashed by winds of up to 50 knots and 5m seas as night set in.
Bille, a 54-foot Angolan entrant, suffered a broken mast. Four crew members were injured and one Antonio Bartolomew, later died.
Sources said the yacht was 'unsailable' and commercial shipping vessels in the area – around 75 nautical miles off the West Coast – were attempting to assist.
The SA Navy was also on standby, as were rescue choppers, which were currently inoperable due to the inclement weather.
Others in the fleet also suffered drama, with at least two more returning to shore.
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Billie - Start of 2014 Cape Town to Rio yacht race
Latest update from the Cape Town to Rio Yacht Race, in which a crew member died after an incident as the boats cleared the South African coast:
RCYC General Manager, Marcus Reuter, boarded SAS Islandwana last night as they set sail for the fleet to assist yacht Bille. Communications with SAS Islandwana have been constant and accurate and the report from Marcus were 'Islandwana crew have been so professional'.
The majority of the fleet were still suffering rough sea conditions last night with poor visibility and a lot of rain this morning.
The current situation on the following yachts:
BILLE – All crew of have now been transferred to SAS Islandwana. Two reported injured crew, the skipper with broken ribs and one crew member with lacerations. Both have been tended to by a medical doctor and all are stable and now sleeping.
Then navy managed to clear all damaged rigging and have the left the vessel to return to later. Once crew were secured, SAS Islandwana immediately left the area to go to assist yacht AVA.
AVA – We have just had a report from SAS Islandwana that they have spotted yacht in very poor visibility. AVA sailing without power and communications but all well on board. SAS Islandwana now on their way to yacht Isla.
ISLA reported late last night taking on water in the engine compartment and an electrical fire. They have had a container vessel Bosun, standing by for assistance since early this morning. All is under control and the yacht has decided to continue under sail to Saldanha. Smit Madura is on station with yacht Isla possibly to tow them back to port.
BLACK CAT – NSRI Station 3 are on route to tow her back to shore due to no steerage from a broken rudder.
INDABA – On it’s way back to port with on injured crew member.
PEEKAY safely in harbour at Yachtport.
DO DO, AVOCET, AVANTI & FTI Flyer – are currently heading back to shore.
Tranquillo are only able to receive calls, otherwise all well.
A special appreciation to SAS Islandwana, the NSRI at Station 3 and MRCC, Thank You Guys!
Some trackers have been reported not to be moving but XtraLink are on top of each issue and most should be sorted by now.
The initial report is as follows:
The fleet experienced stormy conditions on their first night, with reports of 40 to 60 knts of wind and swells of 6 metres. Many yachts experienced difficulties with the conditions but most are coming through the worst part.
The current situation on the following yachts:
BLACK CAT has reported a broken rudder and is proceeding back to Cape Town, one crew has a sprained ankle and all are well.
PEEKAY have reported sail problems and are proceeding to Saldanha Bay, crew all well.
EXPLORA have reported engine flooded but all well and will attend to the problem in calmer conditions.
ISLA, have reported both engines inoperable, but generator working, PEEKAY have reported receiving a PAN-PAN from ISLA. We have had communication from them to say that all is well.
BILLE reported earlier today mainsail problems and that they were proceeding back to Cape Town for repairs. At 15:00 a report was received that the boat was demasted and there were a number of serious injuries on board. Sadly the yacht reported a fatality of one crew member. MRCC have activated all their agencies and we are in constant communication with the vessel. Race HQ sent the nearest vessel Genevieve Too to yacht Bille and they are currently standing close by to offer assistance.
Ava reported in this morning saying that they were having battery power problems. At 16:18 an EPIRB was activated from Ava and we have received no communication from this vessel since then. MRCC have activated all agencies even though the yacht appears to on course from the XtraLink tracking system.
DoDo reported in at 19:30 this evening to say that they have lost steering and engine power but are hove to and will do repairs to resume racing.
The naval frigate, Islandwana, has been mustered with medical crew and will be departing this evening to attend to yacht BIlle and Ava.
As more information becomes available we will be updating the website and releasing further statements.
The Race Committee at this sad time offer our condolences to the family members of the deceased and the crew.