America's Cup sailors recount Rambler capsize in Rolex Fastnet Race
by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World on 17 Aug 2011
Five times round the world racer, and America's Cup sailor Erle Williams (NZL), has described the moment when the supemaxi Rambler 100, capsized soon after rounding Fastnet Rock, yesterday at about 5.30pm.
Rambler upside down, as the crew are transferred to the Baltimore Lifeboat RNLI
A professional yachtsman, Williams is one of New Zealand's top sailors, with a long sailing career encompassing five Round the World races, and several America's Cup campaigns. Other top America's Cup sailors were also on board including Andrew Taylor (NZL) and Peter Isler (USA).
Rambler 100 is owned by George David (69) out of Connecticut, USA. David is former chief executive of United Technologies Corporation and has more than 40 years sailing experience. Rambler 100 was originally built in New Zealand and launched as Speedboat for another US owner.
Rambler 100 is regarded as the fastest supermaxi in the world, and was expected to set a new monohull record for the 608nm Fastnet classic.
Conditions at the time of the rescue, in the early evening, were described by the lifeboat crew as Force 6 (20-25kts) with a two metre swell and quite foggy.
, Erle Williams told radio show, Morning Ireland, that the yacht had just rounded Fastnet Rock when the incident occurred.
'We had just come around Fastnet Rock and were on our way to the offset mark, which was an upwind leg before rounding and heading back towards the Scillie Isles. We had just had some big waves and heard a big bang.
'I was driving at the time and looked up thinking it was something in the mast, or that a stay had broken.Nothing was wrong up there but the boat was capsizing. We realised that it was the keel as the boat was going over. The mast hit the water, with the sails set and just lay in the water for a time. Then she started to turn upside down quite quickly, as we didn't have a lot of time to get out.
'We had people asleep onboard, and people down below changing watches. The boat went upside down quite quickly, and the crew from inside the boat were very lucky to get out in time - including our navigator (Peter Isler) who just had time to put out a Mayday call as the boat went over.
'Some of us managed to clamber onto the bottom of the boat, without getting wet, I was one of them.
'It was a very frightening experience. I have sailed all my life and have raced around the world five times, and I have never ended up in the water like this, so it was pretty scary.
'Five of the crew including the owner and his lady were separated from the boat. They formed a group very quickly and stayed together and that was a blessing disguise. Some of those who got onto the upturned hull of the boat were just in their thermal underwear and with no lifejackets and had just come form their bunks.
'We set up a line between the centreboards and rudders so that everyone could hold on. There were some quick big waves, it was quite rough.
'ICAP Leopard (who was lying second in the monohulls at the time) came past quite close, but didn't see us, which was quite frustrating. We were yelling and hollering out to them but they couldn't see us. Then several other boats sailed past us as well and also didn't see us.
'It was very cold and wet on top of the boat, so we spent a couple of hours watching boats sail past us, and then the rescue boat came out.
'I saw the Baltimore lifeboat approaching us in very rough weather. They were heading towards us and then veered off to the right and went straight past us. As it turned out they were heading towards the beacon that the owner, George David had activated and was in the water. (With the group of five other crew.) They had gone to the initial position that beacon gave. They were searching for the people in the water. At this point they didn't know the boat was upturned. they didn't understand what had happened.
'They had just gone to a position and started searching around that. We couldn't see them and they couldn't see us for quite some time.
'We were shining lights on them and standing up trying to balance on the bottom of the boat and show our orange wet weather gear. After some time, maybe an hour or so, they came over to us and that was a big relief.
We wanted to get off the boat quickly and go searching for our fellow crew, which we did. It took some time to get off Rambler and onto the Baltimore lifeboat in the conditions. But we used a small rubber dinghy to transfer one by one over the the lifeboat. Then we headed off to search for our crew in the hope that they were still OK.
'Once we boarded the rescue boat and started motoring around, they heard from another source that the crew had been picked up.
'That was the best news I have heard for a long time. we were very relieved and so thankful that they had been picked up.'
The crew were all taken to the Baltimore Sailing Club where the club members found dry clothing, food and drink for the Rambler crew.
To read navigator Peter Isler's account of the capsize http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/news/11/0816!click_here
Rambler towed to Ireland
Rambler 100 will be assessed for damage by a team of divers tomorrow morning. She is now under tow and has been taken to a sheltered bay near Brow Head where she will stay overnight.
RTE News, Ireland reports that following an inspection tomorrow, local time, a decision will be taken on where the US registered, Rambler 100 will be taken.
Mandy Touton, the yachtswoman who was airlifted to hospital, has now been discharged as all 21 crew members begin to make plans to head home.
Weather conditions are expected to be better tomorrow.
Gerry Smith, skipper of the Wave Chieftain who rescued five of the crew from the sea last night, including skipper David George, said salvaging such a huge vessel will be a tough operation.
'It will have to be put into a position were you get up and remove the rigging and get it ready for moving,' he said.
'You have a 40mtr mast and with all the associated rigging. It will be tomorrow before it will be brought in.'
Mr Smith took out Mr David and a dive team to inspect the wreckage and attempt to recover passports and some other personal items from the cabin.
Mr David, said the stainless steel keel fin had fractured, but the cause was as yet unknown.
The Irish Navy has said good luck played a role in the successful rescue operation.
Lt Commander Frank O'Connor, of the LE Ciara, said because of fog, wind and a swell, it had been very difficult for the RNLI and a local boat to locate the upturned yacht and the crew members.
Tributes have flowed for the performance of the Baltimore Lifeboat crew.
RTE News Ireland reports that the Irish Minister for the Marine, Simon Coveney, has commended the rescue services for their work last night.
'This was a dramatic sea rescue that was co-ordinated with speed and professionalism and everybody involved should be commended for their efforts,' a statement from the minister said.
'This is a reminder of just how important it is for Ireland to have a well resourced sea rescue infrastructure.'
'This incident will be reported in the international press and we can be proud of the way in which Irish emergency services contributed to preventing any loss of life.'
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