Crew members who survived when an American yacht capsized off the West Cork coast have outlined the full horror of their ordeal.
Irish marine services have been praised after all 21 crew on board the Rambler 100 maxi-yacht were rescued on Monday night, south of the Fastnet Rock.
reland’s Marine Casualty Investigation Board has begun a preliminary inquiry into the capsizing as the 100 foot yacht was towed to Barleycove near Castletownbere.The $10million yacht hit trouble in stormy waters when the keel snapped as it led the mono-hull fleet in the Fastnet yacht race.
US businessman George David, owner of the Rambler 100, was taken out to assess damage to the yacht as Irish naval personnel tried to recover passports and other personal items belonging to the crew.
“We were getting slammed in every direction. It was like a washing machine out there,” American crew member Joe Finelli said of his three hour ordeal in the choppy water.
A member of the US Coast Guard, Finelli was one of five crew members who drifted on a life-raft after they were separated from the main party clinging to the capsized hull.
“We jumped overboard and tried to swim back to the group, but the wind and the waves pushed us back.
“We huddled together to try to swim back, but we were pushed further and further away.”
Owner David and his partner were two of the five crew members marooned on the life-raft.
“It was rough. The waves were washing right over us and we were drifting over towards the Fastnet Rock,” added the 44-year-old Finelli.
“Two and a half hours into the ordeal we spotted a helicopter overhead and we could only hope they had been seen.
“Thirty minutes later, we looked around and saw a vessel coming towards us. Boy we were glad to see that.”
David, the 69-year-old owner of the yacht, said: “What’s been amazing about this whole experience is the complete confidence we have in the sea rescue capabilities available here in Ireland.
“Even as we floated in the water awaiting the arrival of a vessel, we knew it would come. And what a reception we received in Baltimore. We have been so well looked after, it’s heartwarming.”
New Zealander Nathan Hislop, asleep below deck when the keel snapped, was the last man off the stricken vessel.
“I was awoken by a loud bang,” said Hislop. “I could feel the boat tipping over. I just went into survival mode; I was the last out of the boat. There were four of us sleeping below deck with minimal protective clothing.“The hull fell fast. There was no chance of even cutting the life rafts free.
We were hugging each other and we used each other’s body heat.
“Other yachts in the race were close to us. The Leopold came very close, within a quarter of a mile.
But they couldn’t see us. When other boats passed us by, we did start to get a little worried. But you can’t stress about it when you are out there, you have to stay calm.”
Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney paid tribute to the efforts of the rescue services.
“This is a reminder of just how important it is for Ireland to have a well-resourced sea rescue infrastructure. It was a minor miracle that there was no loss of life,” said Minister Coveney.
“The Fastnet race is one of the most high-profile offshore yacht races in the world and Rambler 100 is one of the best-known racing yachts on the planet.”