The maxi Rambler 100 capsized around midnight on Monday off the Irish coast during the Rolex Fastnet race. All 21 crew are safe, according to the Irish Coast Guard.
The incident happened just after Rambler 100 rounded the Fastnet Rock at 1725 local time. At the time, Rambler 100 was leading the monohull fleet and vying for monohull line honors in the Rolex Fastnet Race, which started on Sunday.
The Coast Guard received an automated distress signal at 1830 local time, and dispatched helicopters and lifeboats to the scene, between the Fastnet Rock and the coast.
"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,” says crewmember and Rambler 100 project manager Mick Harvey. “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."
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, including skipper, George David. This group linked arms, forming a circle. Fortunately, a photo boat under charter with Lloyd Thornburg, owner of the Gunboat 66 Phaedo was on the scene to photograph Phaedo as it rounded Fastnet Rock.
According to Team Phaedo member Rachel Jaspersen, who was aboard the photo boat, the crew received a call from the Irish coastguard and immediately began searching for survivors. With the help of an EPIRD transmission from one of the sailors in the water, they were able to rescue David and the other sailors who hadn’t been able to climb aboard Rambler 100’s upturned hull about 3 hours after the capsize. Photographer Richard Langdon was able to capture the rescue with a series of incredible photographs.
“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."
The 608-mile Rolex Fastnet Race is held every two years, starting off Britain’s Isle of Wight and crossing the Irish Sea to round the Fastnet Rock before heading back to England and the finish in Plymouth.
Rambler 100 was setting a fast pace before the capsize, reveling in fresh breezes that were expected to see records tumble in all classes. The 314-strong fleet was the biggest in over 30 years.
In 1985, the maxi Drum—owned by pop star Simon Le Bon—also capsized during the Fastnet Race after losing her keel. All her crew were rescued.
In 1979, a vicious storm ravaged the fleet, claiming many boats and 15 lives.
For more information, see fastnet.rorc.org.