In the Rolex Fastnet Race, the crew of Rambler capsized and were subsequently rescued. The entire crew of twenty-one underwent advanced man overboard and safety training just prior to leaving Rhode Island for the Transatlantic Race and the subsequent Rolex Fastnet Race.
The training consisted of a thorough inspection of safety equipment on shore as well as a five-hour training session out at sea. Experienced, licensed training professionals at Life raft and Survival Equipment (LRSE) of Tiverton, RI conducted all the training. Unfortunately, the training had to be put to use on August 15 th when the 100 ft. Rambler sailing yacht lost its keel in 15ft. waves and capsized immediately throwing all 21 crew members into the frigid water off the coast of Ireland. Fortunately, all 21 crewmembers survived.
The training primarily involved a two-step process. The first step was on-shore inspection of PFD’s, tethers, personal locator beacons (PLB’s) and life rafts to assure that all the equipment was functioning properly. The second step was a five-hour offshore trip, which included a thorough review of abandon ship procedures, which emphasized the importance of forming a circle to 'stay warm, stay together and stay afloat'. The offshore drills also included inflating a life raft and conducting an exercise to recover a person overboard.
A separate drill, which involved a one-day exercise in a pool, was conducted for crewmember Wendy Touton, which included in the water survival techniques and again emphasized the mantra of 'stay warm, stay together and stay afloat'.
According to Jim O’Connor, President of LRSE, 'The owner and very professional crew aboard Rambler took all the necessary steps to prepare for this very unfortunate event. Their attention to detail and insistence on professional equipment inspection and training no doubt served them very well in surviving the extremely harsh and dangerous conditions that they had to endure after the capsizing. Ultimately the PLB’s played a very key role in locating the crew as time was running short and the five crew who were separated from the boat did a terrific job of linking arms and forming a circle as we emphasized in all the training exercises. The fact that everyone survived two and one half hours in the water is a testament to their diligent preparation.' LRSE has been selling and servicing major brands of life rafts and inflatable boats and safety equipment for 26 years. LRSE was founded by its President, Mr. James O’Connor, who is also the past President of the US Marine Safety Association (USMSA). LRSE staff members are the foremost experts in marine safety training and outfitting and they conduct hundreds of boat inspections and seminars every year. Their factory-trained and certified service technicians operate LRSE’s U.S. Coast Guard approved servicing facility, one of the largest in the country.