EPIRB false alarm

In Challenge Transat race

Sunday September 1st 2002, Author: Rachel Anning, Location: Transoceanic
A dramatic air and sea search took place last night following the activation of an EBIRB on-board Team SpirIT, one of the six yachts competing in the Challenge Transat.

At approximately 11.00 pm last night, Falmouth Coastguard picked up an EPIRB signal transmitting on the 243 MHz frequency. The Falmouth Coastguard made contact with Alex Johnson, skipper of BP Explorer who estimated the position of the EBIRB being that of the yacht Team SpirIT. BP Explorer, almost 40 miles away, was requested to divert to the position.

A Nimrod was launched from RAF Kinloss in Scotland and a container ship approximately 2 hours from the signal was also asked to divert.

During the night, Sat-C messages were sent to the fleet but Team SpirIT did not respond to these messages nor was the yacht contactable by satellite phone.

Finally at around 04.30 this morning, a message arrived from Team SpirIT confirming all well on board as the Nimrod, codenamed Rescue 51, arrived on the scene, performing a low level pass with full search lights blazing. As Alistair Hackett, Race Duty Officer, explained "I was confirming with Mark Taylor that everyone was safe using the now operational satellite phone and could hear the Nimrod pilot on his radio at the same time".

Falmouth Coastguard decided to confirm the location of all yachts and proceeded to contact them, the Nimrod performing the fly-bys.

Thankfully, the incident was a false alarm and believed to be caused by accidental activation of a personal EPIRB. However it did demonstrate the extent of the behind the scenes logistics, operations and preparations required for any such an eventuality.

Alistair Hackett, Duty Officer of Race Organisers Challenge Business praising the rescue services said "We are very grateful to the crew of the Nimrod and the Falmouth Coast Guard. We assisted in every way we could and all the skippers acted professionally and in particular Alex Johnson, who immediately stopped racing to divert to location of the incident"

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