Fatality in the Cape2Rio

Crewman lost during dismasting following storm force conditions

Monday January 6th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: South Africa

The organisers of the Cape2Rio 2014 may be regretting not postponing the start of their race, sending their fleet out into forecast storm force winds gusting to 60 knots and with a 4-5m swell with waves breaking in the strong winds on the first night.

The conditions created carnage in the fleet and the death of an as yet unnamed crewman on board Sybille Marion Doeker Correira Da Silva's Angolan Bavaria 54 Bille.

Initially the Bille crew indicated that their boat had suffered a mainsail problem and was proceeding back to Cape Town to effect repairs, when they lost a man overboard. Fortunately he was recovered. However the crew subsequently reported that their yacht had dismasted, during which there were a number of serious injuries, including one fatality. They issued a Mayday. At this time they were 120 nautical miles NNW of Cape Town.

The local MRCC in Cape Town leapt into action and were in constant communication with the vessel as the race organisers dispatched the nearest vessel Adam Hannah's South African Knysna 440 catamaran Genevieve Too to Bille. They were standing close by to offer assistance.

SAS Islandwana, a South African navy frigate was scrambled at 2030 local time last night to assist Bille. After rendez-vousing with her, the crew of Bille was transferred to the naval vessel at around 1000 local time this morning. In addition to the fatality, there are two injured - the skipper, Luis Manuel De Oliveira Da Silva with broken ribs and one crew member with lacerations. Both have been tended to by a doctor on board. The frigate's crew was able to clear all the damaged rigging, but have the left the vessel to be salvaged at a later date.

The SAS Islandwana then went to check up on Colin Horton and Belinda Horton's yacht Ava. Her crew reported in on Sunday morning that they were having battery power problems. The crew activated the yacht's EPIRB at 16:18 local time yesterday and the race organisers were unable to establish communication with the vessel. The frigate crew found the yacht sailing without power or communications, but otherwise all was well on board [so quite why they had activated their EPIRB???].

The frigate has since moved on to Ian Henderson's Isla. Last night the Isla crew reported they were taking on water in the engine compartment and had an electrical fire on board. They have had a container ship Bosun, standing by for assistance since early this morning. All is under control and although they originally took the decision to sail back to port now the tug Smit Madura is on station and may tow Isla back.

Meanwhile Giovanni Soldini's modified VO70 Maserati leads the charge towards Brazil. “All of us here aboard Maserati are greatly dismayed by the news,” said Soldini. “Our thoughts are with all of Bille’s crew members and their families. And also with all the boats that were or are in difficulty. Given that the Cape2Rio fleet includes small cruising yachts ill-prepared to cope with such violent ocean storms, it might have been wiser to postpone the start. But it’s always easy to evaluate these things in hindsight. On the other hand, this deep depression with winds of 50-60 knots was forecast well in advance of the start.”

At 9.00 UTC, Maserati had 2,810 miles to go to the finish and was 65 miles ahead of the South African Open 60 Explora in second, and 80 ahead of the third-placed Australian 52 footer, Scarlet Runner. Maserati is currently reaching in 30 knots of wind which should gradually abate as the day progresses. The Italian boat is making 20-24 knots with peak speeds of 27-28 knots.

UPDATE: We have since learned that the sailor lost from Bille is Angolan António Bartolomeu.

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