What does it feel like to lose your sailing boat to the sea? To escape only with your life? Most of us hope we shall never find out. The skipper of a stricken yacht last week described the devastating moment he was forced to ‘abandon ship’ recently in the middle of the Atlantic.
Avenir rescue - the critical moment of abandoning the yacht
Ron Rostorfer and his crew tried desperately to mend the Avenir’s steering system after her rudder snapped off around 200 miles off Bermuda in high seas.
But he was forced to give up on plans to bring the 41ft sloop back onto the island after three sailors became seriously seasick and forecasters predicted even worse weather was on its way.
The six-strong crew was rescued from their yacht by the Norwegian Star on two weeks ago after the cruise liner diverted to come to their aid on its way to Bermuda.
Fighting back tears he told the Bermuda Sun: 'Looking back at Avenir from the cruise ship was a very sad sight.
Norwegian Star rescue
'We did what we had to do. It was a hard decision to make in some ways, but we knew it was the right one. I have sailed into or out of Bermuda on 17 occasions and nothing like this has ever happened.
'We did everything we could do try and rig up the emergency steering system but then the spinnaker snapped in half and we had no way of steering the yacht at all. Initially I was very reluctant that we would all be transferred to the Norwegian Star.
'But if I had stayed on board someone would have probably had to come and get me.'
The Avenir left the island on Sunday in beautiful sunshine with several other yachts after competing in the Newport to Bermuda race for the second year running.
It was not until dawn on the Tuesday that disaster struck.
Speaking from his home in the US Mr Rostorfer added: 'It was very close to 6am when we heard a loud snap and the boat began turning in circles.
'Then we saw the rudder floating away behind us. That was not good obviously but we had no water coming in.
'So we set to work getting the emergency system in place by lashing the spinnaker with a piece of the floorboard to try and put another steering system in the water.
'But when the spinnaker broke there was not a lot else we could do.'
Mr Rostorfer had made contact with the yacht’s owner, Joe Murray, in the US when the rudder had first broken.
And Mr Murray had contacted the US Coast Guard for assistance. The crew waited around three hours for the liner to come alongside and ensured that all the hatches on the yacht were shut and everything was lashed down.
Mr Murray told the Sun: 'I am still hoping we might be able to recover Avenir from the sea. I have had her for eight years now.
'And she is still fitted with a race transmitter so we have an idea of where she is at present.'
Mr Rostorfer and his crew were ferried from the yacht to the Norwegian Star by a small Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) belonging to the cruise line.
He said: 'As each of us were hauled aboard the cruise ship all the passengers who had come out onto the deck cheered. We were never in any grave physical danger while we were out there but we did not have any choice in the end.
'It’s a very unhappy situation but hopefully we’ll be back in Bermuda again next year.'
For the original news report of the rescue, see previous http://www.sail-world.com/CruisingAus/Norwegian-Star-to-the-rescue-of-six-sailors/98982!Sail-World_story.