Shortly after rounding the Fastnet Rock the keel on George David's super maxi Rambler100 snapped off and the boat quickly capsized. The Rolex Fastnet Race monohull record falls.
Rolex Fastnet Race Archives
Race Updates 2011
Skipper Mike Sanderson reflects on Team Sanya's performance in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the team representing China were racing against two of the favourites for the forthcoming round the world race. Groupama 4 and Abu Dhabi are brand new versions of the powerful canting-keel flyers but Team Sanya is a 2007 design, which has only been back in the water for about a week.
Mike Sanderson won the 2005-06 Volvo Ocean Race as skipper and is returning to offshore racing after a five-year absence. Team Sanya were the third Volvo 70 to finish the Rolex Fastnet Race but their elapsed time of 43 hrs 38 min 29 sec was faster than ICAP Leopard's previous record set in 2007.
"At the end of the day I love it. I think the only reason not to come back is if your ego won't let you, enthused Mike Sanderson. "The opportunity arose for me to lead Team Sanya in the Volvo Ocean Race and I just love these boats.
We have a great bunch of guys and at the end of the day, we want a challenge and this is definitely one, especially as we need to do a better job than anyone else. We have to play with the cards we have been dealt and we have little time, it is going to be challenging and that is what makes it fun.
At midnight, Monday 15 August, Eddie Warden Owen, Chief Executive of the Royal Ocean Racing Club received a call from Mick Harvey, Project Manager of George David's Rambler 100 (USA). Harvey spoke about the harrowing incident when the 100' Maxi Rambler 100 capsized in the Celtic Sea during the Rolex Fastnet Race.
The incident happened just after Rambler 100 rounded the Fastnet Rock at 17:25 BST. At the time, Rambler 100 were leading the monohull fleet and vying for monohull line honours in the Rolex Fastnet Race which started on Sunday 14th.
Mick Harvey's account of the incident was charged with emotion. The tough Australian, who now lives in Newport, Rhode Island (USA), is a seasoned veteran, but he was understandably shaken by the incident:
"Soon after rounding the Fastnet Rock, the wind went southwest, right on the nose. We were beating into big seas, launching Rambler off the top of full size waves. I was down below with navigator, Peter Isler when we heard the sickening sound of the keel breaking off. It was instantaneous; there was no time to react. The boat turned turtle, just like a dinghy capsizing. Peter Isler issued a Mayday and we got out of there as quickly as we could."
The EPIRB had been activated and a number of crew climbed over the guardrails and onto the hull as the boat capsized and helped those swimming to safety. The Atlantic swell made it difficult for the crew to get out of the water however, working together, 16 of the crew managed to scale the upturned hull.
Five of the crew were swept away by the waves out of reach of the stricken Maxi and these included Skipper, George David and partner Wendy Touton who were in the water for two and a half hours. This group linked arms, forming a circle. Valencia Coastguard diverted a local fishing boat, Wave Chieftain to assist, which winched the crew on board. Earlier a helicopter had been scrambled from Shannon Airport helicopter, Wendy Touton was airlifted for medical attention due to the effects of hypothermia and the four remaining crew were taken to Baltimore Harbour where they were re-united with the 16 crew rescued by the Baltimore Lifeboat.
"It was a scary moment. One that I will never forget," admitted Mick Harvey. "I can't begin to tell you how relieved I am that all of the crew are safe. The town of Baltimore has given us a wonderful welcome. I can not thank our rescuers and the people of this lovely village enough. Wendy is in Kerry Hospital and doing fine, I am just so relieved that everybody is okay."
Taking part in his ninth Rolex Fastnet Race, the cameraman on board Maxi Banque Populaire was Digby Fox. He was buzzing as he stepped ashore. The Somerset based TV director/cameraman has had a love affair with the race around the famous lighthouse for many years. In 2003, Digby was on board Charles Dunstone's 76' Maxi Nokia Enigma, winning the Rolex Fastnet Race overall. For that, he won a Rolex watch, courtesy of Charles, which he wears to this day as a badge of honour (plus it winds up his colleagues no end).
This year, Digby - or Diggers to everyone who works with him - was on board the 140' Maxi Trimaran Banque Populaire, which completed the 608-mile course in an astonishing time of 32 hrs 48 mins 46sec. Think of that - the Rolex Fastnet Race in a day and half.
Digby actually still holds the Crystal Trophy record for multihulls under 50' in the Rolex Fastnet Race, coincidentally with Banque Populaire crewman Brian Thompson. That was as a sailor, but now it's as a cameraman that he gets these gigs.
Smashing the course record plus the outright race record in a monster-multihull was a world apart from Diggers' trip in 2009. That was aboard Morwenna, the classic 45' Bristol Pilot Cutter with larch hull on English oak frames - a timeless reproduction of an age gone by.