Tragedy in the North American Rally to the Caribbean - Sail Magazine

Tragedy in the North American Rally to the Caribbean

While the Caribbean 1500 fleet was cooling its jets in Hampton waiting for Sean to expire, another seasonal bluewater cruising event, the North American Rally to the Caribbean (NARC), was running into some serious trouble farther north.
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0

While the Caribbean 1500 fleet was cooling its jets in Hamptonwaiting for Sean to expire, another seasonal bluewater cruising event, the North American Rally to the Caribbean (NARC), was running into some serious trouble farther north. Most of the NARC fleet of 21 boats, led by organizer Hank Schmitt aboard Avocation, a Swan 48, departed Newport, Rhode Island, bound for Bermuda (and thence to St. Maarten) on Tuesday, November 1, with a relatively clean five-day forecast from weather-router Susan Genett of Real Weather. But the unexpected development of Sean changed the dynamic of the event several days later.

SAIP-120200-FECarib1500-15_0

The fastest NARC boats reached Bermuda before things got too hairy, but the slower boats got caught in stronger winds that were first northerly, then shifted south. One boat, Elle, a 46-foot Beneteau, was abandoned on Sunday, November 6, for reasons that remain unclear. Though the boat had suffered a steering failure, this reportedly was repaired before the crew evacuated to Oleander, a container ship. During the evacuation, one crewmember from Elle fell overboard and spent half an hour in the water between the two vessels before being retrieved. In the end, all the crew were safely delivered to Bermuda.

Another boat that suffered serious steering problems was Riot, a 49-footer with a rather young crew aboard. The 23-year-old skipper, Coleman Bowen, told the Bermuda Royal Gazette: “A lot of stuff started to break. I mean, everything broke. We lost steering three times in three different ways.” The boat also suffered serious damage when a local Bermudian pilot boat attempted to take it in tow. In the end, Riot’s crew managed to bring her safely into harbor unassisted on Monday, November 7.

I discussed these events with Hank Schmitt on the morning of Friday, November 11 (the very day the Caribbean 1500 fleet departed Hampton), and he was rather critical of the role played by well-known amateur weather-router Herb Hilgenberg, of Toronto, Canada, who was advising several NARC participants. According to Hank, Herb’s overly conservative advice had led some boats to spend far too long reaching Bermuda. As we spoke, he was still worrying about Triple Stars, an Island Packet 380 that had already been at sea 10 days and was still over 250 miles north of Bermuda.

“Herb told them they should stay north and wait for better weather when they had north wind that could have brought them here in a couple of days,” Hank told me. “Now they have south wind and can’t get here.”

In response, Herb criticized Hank in an e-mail for leaving Newport when he did. “The NARC rally should never have started to begin with,” he wrote, “and I believe Hank Schmitt is looking for someone to take the blame for his bad decision.”

Sadly, word came the very next day that Jan Anderson, one of two crew aboard Triple Stars, had been lost. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, an EPIRB assigned to Triple Stars was ignited at 1339 on Friday, November 11, followed five minutes later by a radio call from Rob Anderson stating that his wife had been swept overboard by a 30-foot wave. A commercial vessel, High Jupiter, diverted to the scene and after taking Rob aboard conducted a search for Jan that was abandoned the following day.

According to Hank, Triple Stars had suffered autopilot problems prior to being abandoned. Reportedly, there was also an issue with the roller-furling mainsail. Rob Anderson, who was taken to France aboard High Jupiter, was not available for comChment at press time.

Photo by Michael Eudenbach

Related

180615-01 Lead

A Dramatic Comeback in the Volvo

After winning three of the last four legs in the Volvo Ocean Race (and coming in second in the fourth), Dutch-flagged Brunel is now tied for first overall with Spanish-flagged Mapfre and Chinese-flagged Dongfeng following the completion of Leg 10 from Cardiff, Wales, to ...read more

MFS-5-2018-Propan-SP02

Tohatsu LPG-powered 5hp Propane Motor

Gassing it UpTired of ethanol-induced fuel issues? Say goodbye to gasoline. Japanese outboard maker Tohatsu has introduced an LPG-powered 5hp kicker that hooks up to a propane tank for hours of stress-free running. Available in short-, long- or ultra-long-shaft versions, the ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comThink Deeply When chartering, I am always maddened to be told that the echo sounder is calibrated “to depth under the keel, plus a bit for safety.” Such operators seem to imagine that the instrument’s sole ...read more

180612-01 Landing lead

Painful Sailing in Volvo Leg 10

It’s looking to be a case of feast or famine for the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean fleet as it continues the epic struggle that has been Leg 10, with it having been all famine thus far. Painful is the only word to describe the light-air start in Cardiff, Wales, on June 10, as the 11-boat ...read more

01-13_07_180304_JRE_03695_4605

Tips From the Boatyard

Within the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard sits a communal sail loft which provides service and repairs for all seven teams sailing in the 2017-18 edition of the race. The sail loft employs only five sailmakers who look after 56 sails in each stopover. If you’re thinking, “wow, these ...read more

sailCarwBasicsJuly18

Sail Care for Cruisers

Taking care of your canvas doesn’t just save you money, it’s central to good seamanship  Knowing how to take care of your sails and how to repair them while at sea is an important part of overall seamanship. The last thing any sailor needs is to get caught on a lee shore with ...read more

Ship-container-2048

The Danger of a Collision Offshore

This almost happened to me once. I was sailing singlehanded between Bermuda and St. Martin one fall, and one night happened to be on deck looking around at just the right time. The moon was out, the sky was clear and visibility was good. Still, when I thought I saw a large ...read more

New-MHS-Promo

Multihulls on the Horizon

Fountaine Pajot New 42The French cat powerhouse has been on a roll these last few years, cranking out new models that not only replace their older line but take a step forward in design and user-friendliness. The New 42’s “real” name had not been revealed as we went to press, but ...read more