Newport RI's Providence Journal is reporting the experiences of several crew from the supermaxi Rambler which capsized in the recent Rolex Fastnet Race.
Five of the crew, Justin Clougher and Jerry Kirby (USA), Erle Williams (NZL), Peter Isler (USA) and Jan Dekker (RSA) are in Newport and spoke to Katie Mulvaney:
Just a week later, crew members who were back racing at the Newport Shipyard were greeted as heroes. Fellow sailors extended warm handshakes and kindness as the sailors shared their saga on a bright Tuesday afternoon.
Designed to outpace the wind, the 100-foot Rambler had just rounded the landmark Fastnet Rock around 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 15, miles ahead of its closest competition.
'We were smashing the record,' said Erle Williams, a New Zealander at the helm. Many of the crew were on deck to catch a glimpse of the rock, a striking formation and lighthouse jutting from the sea that serves as the midpoint in the race, which starts at Cowes, England, and ends at Plymouth.
Williams was taking it easy as the waves began to grow and a light rain fell.
A deafening bang sounded. Williams looked to the rigging; all was fine. Seconds later, the boat tipped, tossing crew below decks from their bunks and sending those on deck scrambling to grab anything in reach.
'People were just falling in space,' said Jerry Kirby, a Newport native, who was down below making hot drinks. 'Bodies were just falling off the weather rail.'
Within 30 seconds, the boat flipped, its keel snapped. Three crew members managed to make it onto the hull without getting wet. Several were tossed into the water. Williams was able to free Wendy Touton, who was caught in the lines. Touton and her partner, Rambler’s owner George David, would be among the five crew members swept away and adrift for three hours.
Down below, the ceiling became the floor for Tim Dawson, 39, of Newport, who was trying to sleep until his next crew shift began. He went to grab foul weather gear and a life jacket, but realized he was out of time. He concentrated on making it out without getting tangled in lines. Once he surfaced, Dawson saw crew members afloat about 40 feet away, but knew he would be of little help without a life jacket. He made his way onto the hull, one of four crew members without safety gear and with little waterproof clothing. Several wore just long underwear.
Mick Harvey had just dozed off after a shift on deck — still in his boots and foul weather pants. He heard a boom he described like cannon fire. He, too, abandoned plans to don a life jacket and exited into the murky, 57-degree water.
Harvey soon discovered his pants and boots were filling with water, pulling him under. 'A couple of times I went down four, five feet,' said Harvey, the boat manager, reached Tuesday in Baltimore, Ireland.
Kirby and Jan Dekker kept ahold of him, but even though both wore life vests, Harvey began dragging them down, Kirby said.
A hulking 250 pounds, Harvey told Kirby he was in trouble. 'I really thought I was gone. I honestly did,' said Harvey, who credits Kirby with saving his life by hoisting him onto the upturned hull.
Meanwhile, two new videos have been published. In the first, Rambler 100's project manager Mick Harvey speaks briefly about the yacht at Bush's Bar in Baltimore and there is a run-around the yacht as seen from the Cape Clare ferry, including a lot of close up video. Mick Harvey says that no decisions have been made about the future of the yacht saying that is a matter for the insurers and owner. However more tests will be conducted to check the structural integrity of the hull.
The second video, taken by Baltimore Sea Safari is of the actual righting of the supermaxi which capsized soon after her keel broke off, just after she rounded Fastnet Rock, while being the leading monohull in the Rolex Fastnet Race.