Log In

Reset Password

Boat sinks in race drama

Disaster avoided: Monterey at the start of the Antigua Bermuda Race (Photograph supplied)

A former Royal Bermuda Yacht Club commodore watched his 56-foot Farr sloop sink some 200 miles south of Bermuda early yesterday morning while competing in the Antigua Bermuda Race.

But skipper Les Crane, owner of the Monterey, and his five-man crew were safely brought aboard another competing boat, Esprit de Corps IV, and last night were heading to Bermuda.

The sailors managed to escape the sinking boat by scrambling into an inflatable liferaft before being rescued.

It is understood that nobody was injured during the drama.

Close by was the training ship Spirit of Bermuda, which has endured its own problems during the race, having resorted to steering with its emergency tiller.

However, Spirit, while standing by, was not required during the rescue. Alongside Mr Crane, a veteran sailor who has regularly competed in the Newport Bermuda Race, was Bermudian James Watlington as well as Cam and Jock Macrae, Bob Medland and Kit Tatum.

Sixty-seven-year-old Crane has been sailing for decades, having been involved with the organisation of the Gold Cup and the Newport Bermuda Race.

He launched Monterey in 2004, which was considered a state-of-the art vessel, and could have been worth $700,000 before yesterday’s disaster.

It has sailed in the Atlantic many times and competed in several Newport Races.

It is understood the boat had been taking in water for “some hours” before the decision was made to abandon ship.

Conditions at the time were probably fair, according to the Bermuda Weather Service, who said winds in the area would have been around 15 knots with seas of around 5 to 6ft. However, there was also the possibility of isolated showers. According to the Bermuda Maritime Operations, just after 5am yesterday Rescue Co-ordination Centre Bermuda received a satellite call from Monterey, reporting that the boat was taking on water.

“The cause of water ingress was unknown as crew prepared to abandon to another race participant, Esprit de Corps IV,” said a statement.

“Using an on-board ‘yellow brick’ tracking system, RCC Bermuda was able to confirm that both vessels were in proximity and preparing for the transfer of six crew.

“At 5.28am RCC Bermuda received another call from the crew of Monterey reporting that all six persons had been safely transferred via life raft to Esprit de Corps IV, and that Monterey was now very low in the water.

“Just before 7am, the skipper of Monterey reported that the vessel was now nearly sunk with crew continuing towards Bermuda on-board the Esprit de Corps IV.”

A statement by the race committee noted the incident and the transfer of the crew, adding that the Spirit of Bermuda was in the area monitoring the rescue and all yachts taking part in the race were fitted with YB Trackers.

And a spokeswoman said that while the details were still unclear, they were happy to hear that those who were on-board were safe. It is expected the Esprit de Corps IV, skippered by Gilles Barbot, will arrive in Bermuda early this morning.

At noon Thursday the yacht was 18.7 miles south of Bermuda, travelling at 5.2 knots.

“It must have been very difficult for them,” said the spokeswoman. “This race has been several years in the planning for Les.”

Leatrice Oatley, commodore of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, said: “We are saddened by the news, but we know past commodore Les Crane has completed many miles of ocean crossings and as skipper we know his decision is based on the safety of his crew. We are glad all are safe.”

Only three other yachts are believed to have sunk while racing towards the island.

The Adriana burnt and sank during the 1932 Newport Bermuda Race, resulting in the death of one sailor, while the Elda sank on a reef off the coast of the island in 1956. In 1981 Satan’s Mercy sank en route to Bermuda in the Marion-Bermuda race.