There was a little bit of carnage out there on the open ocean toward the end of last week as the OSTAR and TWOSTAR fleets dealt head-on with an intense low pressure system. The boats racing solo and double-handed from Plymouth, England to Newport, Rhode Island had no way to escape the depression which registered a low of 967 mb at it’s center and packing sustained winds topping 60 knots. One yacht sunk, two yachts were dismasted, and five crew were rescued while other boats sustained enough damage to force them to retire.
The low hit last Friday morning and the yacht Furia, a Danish built Luffe 37, sustained hull damage and sank. The double-handed crew were rescued by the survey vessel Thor Magna in an effort coordinated by the race organizers, the Royal Western Yacht Club, and the Canadian coastguard out of Halifax Nova Scotia. A little while later the yacht Happy was dismasted. The not-so-happy crew were forced to abandon their 37 foot Jeanneau Sun Fast and they were rescued by an oceangoing tug by the name of APL Forward. None of the sailors suffered any injuries but one can only imagine what it must have been like to abandon your yacht and transfer to a rescue ship in those conditions.
The most interesting rescue was that of Mervyn Wheatley. Mr Wheatley is an enormously experienced sailor having been a skipper in the first Clipper Round the World Race and having done five Round Britain and Ireland races as well as a number of previous OSTAR races. This was to be his 19th Atlantic crossing in a boat that he had cruised and raced for over two decades. Apparently his yacht Tamarind, a Formosa 42, suffered hull damage and Wheatley was rescued by the luxury ocean liner the Queen Mary 2. Bittersweet luck I guess.
Inevitably when sailors are rescued at sea there is a hue and cry from many who wail at the cost of having to go to the aid of these “stupid” people who should never have been out there in the first place. Usually I try and see both sides of an argument, but in this case there is only one side to this argument.
We need people to push the edges of society be it in politics, athletics or adventure. Most of us are content to park off on the couch and watch the world unfold through a rectangular screen. Few of us are like Mr Wheatley who decided that life on the couch was not for him. At 73 he is still prepared to throw the docklines ashore and head out into the blue yonder.
OK, so the time it did not go so well and he had to be rescued but so what. First of all that’s what the rescue services are for. They are paid for by the tax payers of various countries to go to the aid of anyone who is in need of it. As a civilized society we go to the aid of all kinds of people be they from junkies that overdose to drunk drivers who wrap themselves around a tree. It’s just what you do and stop moaning about the cost. The various Coast Guard’s routinely carry out training maneuvers and sometimes they are called to carry out a real mid-ocean rescue. The cost is the same but the result (for those being rescued especially) is infinitely better than being left to their own devices.
In the case of the five sailors that were rescued there was very little expense to get them off their sinking or damaged boats and onto a ship. The vessels that rescued them were already in the region and were diverted to help. All sailors, be they aboard the Queen Mary 2 or on board a small wooden cruising boat, know the creed of the ocean; when one sailor is in need of rescue it’s another sailors responsibly to do whatever they can to help. I bet that the crews aboard the rescue ships felt pretty darn good about what they had done by saving the lives of other sailors.
The first OSTAR boat is expected in Newport this coming Wednesday, June 14. The Italian sailor Andrea Mura, who won the last Ostar in 2013, has sailed an impeccable race and is over 600 miles ahead of the second place yacht. His yacht, Vento Di Sardegna, is a fairly tricked out late generation Open 50. Mura took a bold move toward the beginning of the race and sailed a long leg to the north to get over a low pressure system. At one point he was on the same latitude as Inverness in Northern Scotland, but the move paid handsome dividends and barring any gear failure or collision he will win this edition of the OSTAR is grand fashion. – Brian Hancock.