by Nick Martin
Sailors on yachts join rallies for many reasons - the camaraderie, assistance with bureaucracy, the specially arranged welcomes, the vital information shared between cruising sailors - but one of the greatest of reasons, rarely utilised, is the safety in numbers. However, earlier this month one yacht in the World ARC was very pleased to have rally friends around to assist.
Ensemble at the dock
'We would like to thank everyone who helped us in our moment of need - and look forward to catching up with the rest of the fleet soon.' These were the words of the skipper of Ensemble whose yacht, a 14m Fountaine Pagot catamaran, was saved by quick-thinking rally friends.
Ensemble's crew - Dave and Magali Waterhouse very grateful for the help they received
It was an Australian yacht that had anchored in the Pacific atoll of Suwarrow that was holed and in danger of sinking, when quick action from fellow rally participants saved the boat, which is now under repair in American Samoa.
Eleven World ARC boats were anchored in the Suwarrow lagoon while on passage from Bora Bora to Tonga via Niue
and the remote Cook Island atoll of Suwarrow, waiting for a well-forecast weather system to blow through and clear
the rhumb line route to Niue. Just after dark one evening the wind shifted from south east to the north west, and
increased to 25 knots within 10 minutes, creating breaking waves in the usually tranquil lagoon.
Dave and Magali Waterhouse from Sydney – participants in the World ARC rally - were onboard their catamaran
Ensemble when the anchor dragged, pushing the boat quickly onto what had become a lee shore. A VHF Pan Pan call
brought eleven fellow participants to the boat within minutes, and with the boat cut free from her snagged anchor
and motored into deeper water, the damage was quickly assessed.
Buckets were swiftly put into action to clear the 30cm of water over the floorboards, but the loan of a high capacity
bilge pump from another World ARC yacht really saved the boat. A crash-mat was placed over the outside of the
hull, which reduced water ingress, and six hours later the main bailing teams reduced to a pump watch.
At first light the damage was seen to be two 30cm tears in the port hull, with several smaller punctures. The World
ARC fleet included several divers, one boat having a compressor to refill tanks; using donated materials every hole
was slowly plugged from inside and out.
Ensemble - some underwater patching
The closest yard with facilities to haul out the 14m Fountaine Pajot catamaran was in American Samoa, but rather
than have to face this 400NM passage alone, two rally friends volunteered to sail onboard with Dave and Magali, and
another seven World ARC boats shadowed them on the passage to Pago Pago.
This could have been a very sad end to David and Magali’s honeymoon cruise home to Australia, but Ensemble will
soon be repaired and underway to Fiji.
Because the World ARC boats had already been sailing together for six months, the sailors knew each other like family and were quick to offer help in many forms, reinforcing the benefits of sailing in a rally. Everyone involved in this incident should be proud that Ensemble was saved, and that no-one was hurt in what was fortunately an extremely rapidly resolved situation.
Skipper Dave Waterhouse expressed his gratefulness later for the help they received: 'We had lots of help from our friends in the WARC - with crews from Wind Dancer, Sapphire, Glamorous Galah, Zoe, Peat Smoke, Matilda, At Last and BeeToo and Paul form the WARC all lending a hand and working through the night.
'Special thanks to Michael from Wind Dancer and Richard from Sapphire for being first on the scene and leading a lot of the work.
'While it was a terrible and in many ways scary event, many things went well. Suwarrow is a deserted island - with no facilities. Yet we were able to affect repairs using the tools and equipment we had amongst the boats and in quick time. This is a big testament to why events such as the World ARC are so good.'
World ARC 2012-13 is underway, and 39 boats and over 250 people are enjoying the adventure of a lifetime until April 2013.
The World ARC 2012-13 fleet varies from Discovery 67 Sapphire II to Lagoon 380 S2 Southern Cross. Sailing on the boats are over 250 people aged from 7 years to 72 years from 20 different countries. English, German, French, Dutch, Russian, Spanish and Japanese are all spoken in the fleet.
The rally started in January 2012 in Saint Lucia, and the boats who do the entire journey will have sailed over 26,000 nautical miles around the world by the time they get back to Saint Lucia. Some boats traditionally leave the rally in Australia and others join in Australia, sailing half a rally and joining the next edition as it passes.