Carnage in the OSTAR and TWOSTAR

12 Jun
There was a little bit of carnage out there on the open ocean toward the end of last week as the OSTAR and TWOSTAR fleets dealt head-on with an intense low pressure system. The boats racing solo and double-handed from Plymouth, England to Newport, Rhode Island had no way to escape the depression which registered a low of 967 mb at it’s center and packing sustained winds topping 60 knots. One yacht sunk, two yachts were dismasted, and five crew were rescued while other boats sustained enough damage to force them to retire.

Furia – Luffe 37 – sunk
The low hit last Friday morning and the yacht Furia, a Danish built Luffe 37, sustained hull damage and sank. The double-handed crew were rescued by the survey vessel Thor Magna in an effort coordinated by the race organizers, the Royal Western Yacht Club, and the Canadian coastguard out of Halifax Nova Scotia. A little while later the yacht Happy was dismasted. The not-so-happy crew were forced to abandon their 37 foot Jeanneau Sun Fast and they were rescued by an oceangoing tug by the name of APL Forward. None of the sailors suffered any injuries but one can only imagine what it must have been like to abandon your yacht and transfer to a rescue ship in those conditions.

The most interesting rescue was that of Mervyn Wheatley. Mr Wheatley is an enormously experienced sailor having been a skipper in the first Clipper Round the World Race and having done five Round Britain and Ireland races as well as a number of previous OSTAR races. This was to be his 19th Atlantic crossing in a boat that he had cruised and raced for over two decades. Apparently his yacht Tamarind, a Formosa 42, suffered hull damage and Wheatley was rescued by the luxury ocean liner the Queen Mary 2. Bittersweet luck I guess.

Inevitably when sailors are rescued at sea there is a hue and cry from many who wail at the cost of having to go to the aid of these “stupid” people who should never have been out there in the first place. Usually I try and see both sides of an argument, but in this case there is only one side to this argument. We need people to push the edges of society be it in politics, athletics or adventure. Most of us are content to park off on the couch and watch the world unfold through a rectangular screen. Few of us are like Mr Wheatley who decided that life on the couch was not for him. At 73 he is still prepared to throw the docklines ashore and head out into the blue yonder. OK, so the time it did not go so well and he had to be rescued, but so what. First of all that’s what the rescue services are for. They are paid for by the tax payers of various countries to go to the aid of anyone who is in need of it. As a civilized society we go to the aid of all kinds of people be they junkies that overdose to drunk drivers who wrap themselves around a tree. It’s just what you do and stop moaning about the cost. The various Coast Guard’s routinely carry out training maneuvers and sometimes they are called to carry out a real mid-ocean rescue. The cost is the same but the result (for those being rescued especially) is infinitely better than being left to their own devices.
Tamarind – Formosa 42 – sunk

In the case of the five sailors that were rescued there was very little expense to get them off their sinking or damaged boats and onto a ship. The vessels that rescued them were already in the region and were diverted to help. All sailors, be they aboard the Queen Mary 2 or on board a small wooden cruising boat, know the creed of the ocean; when one sailor is in need of rescue it’s another sailors responsibly to do whatever they can to help. I bet that the crews aboard the rescue ships felt pretty darn good about what they had done by saving the lives of other sailors.

The first OSTAR boat is expected in Newport this coming Wednesday, June 14. The Italian sailor Andrea Mura, who won the last Ostar in 2013, has sailed an impeccable race and is over 600 miles ahead of the second place yacht. His yacht, Vento Di Sardegna, is a fairly tricked out late generation Open 50. Mura took a bold move toward the beginning of the race and sailed a long leg to the north to get over a low pressure system. At one point he was on the same latitude as Inverness in Northern Scotland, but the move paid handsome dividends and barring any gear failure or collision he will win this edition of the OSTAR is grand fashion.

Vento Di Sardegna

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Brian Hancock – owner Great Circle Sails

This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog


  1. Anton Ross

    Nice story, Brian. Thanks for the update on this storm and the sailors going through it. I echo the sentiments of those replies back to Ralph E. Ahseln…get a grip man. Do you make comments like this when land-based sportsmen/women (like auto racing) crash? Sailing is sport, and inherent to most “real” sports, there’s an element of danger. Unlike golf, sailing encompasses skills that involve heart, body, and soul. Sailing is perhaps the truest “soul” sport.

  2. John Kersey

    Inland sailors have to be saved too!
    I have saved a man overboard on a lake!
    And have hit things under water ( trees etc) – hull damage.
    I had to have skuba diver help with my keel.
    And my wife has been blowen over in a storm and marroned on an island over night.
    saved by parks and wildlife.
    We all need help at some time
    John Kersey 4//14/2017

  3. Guy Smith

    I am relatively new to ocean sailing, but have been sailing/racing in the “protected” Chesapeake bay most of my life. One thing that good sailors should consider, after making sure their boat and gear is in good condition, is the weather. A good sailor doesn’t let a time constraint dictate heading out into bad weather. I’m not going to head out onto the bay in my boat when a full Gail is predicted, just because that’s the day I planned to go a few weeks earlier.
    I did not follow the start of the race, so I don’t know what was known about the developing weather conditions in the northern Atlantic.
    Since Andrea Mura headed way north, I’ll bet that the storm track was somewhat well predicted.
    So I have to ask myself why the race start couldn’t be delayed, or moved up, to provide a better margin of safety. I’ll bet the weather routing services they used recommended such. Granted, I know that if you’re out in the ocean for a few weeks, the weather gets hard to predict, but something major, like this low churning southwest of your predicted course, should give cause for concern. The problem becomes the event’s schedule and not safety.
    To some extent, the race committee should be held accountable for sending the fleet right into the middle of a nasty low.
    Of course, the final decision is up to the Skipper and crew. But some sailors believe they can weather anything right?

  4. carlos yermoli

    If anyone believes that it is wrong or stupid to risk doing what you like (whether going on adventures or being a rescuer to those who do) I suppose the better alternative is dying after not doing what you like.

    Good article. I am in wonder that nobody was killed and apparently not even seriously hurt after such a brutal race. At a time when we get bombarded with news of senseless killing of innocent people in the name of absurd beliefs and incompetent power politics everywhere, it is reassuring that humans still can do these amazing feats both for themselves and for one another.

  5. BoathouseJoe

    Hey,here’s a Kramer like idea: Couldn’t ocean traversing yachts such as listed in this event be equipped with inflatable bladders preventing them from sinking? People crossing oceans in their private vessels…I’m guessing they could afford such a system.A good survival raft (a common item) can cost 5k plus so why not spend 10k plus for a vessel floatation system?

  6. RyanDeC​

    Sad to see beautiful, functional sailing machines taken by the sea, yet brilliant that all sailors retrieved from Davy Jones’ clutches. Curious the carping over the necessity of utilizing rescue services; was Air Force, but have many Navy/Marine/Coastie friends and ex-Navy in the family. A quick, unscientific poll by phone (only those who answered we’re asked) determined that all preferred rescue actions to any other assigned duty. My old Coastie buddy (both of us stationed in Alaska late ’70’s) implied that I was nuts, asking: “And you think we liked playing narks and traffic cops? It’s necessary, but rescue is worthy, and if you’re gonna risk your life anyway…” ; well, I suspect the guys who do that work need no advocate at the Pearly Gates, and would become firemen or some such if ocean rescue was eliminated.
    And just what age do I roll up in bubble wrap, clamp on the helmet, and strap myself to the couch with my remote? I’m pushing 60 with some service disabilities, but as long as I can do, I will. And that is a fundamental human right, which I hope to use well into my twilight years- dying in bed ain’t in the plan!

  7. Cal Markwood

    In Colorado, we have people every winter who get lost skiing or snowmobiling and have to be rescued at great expense to the taxpayers. Their problem could usually be avoided with a $100 GPS and a little common sense.

    Ocean sailing usually is not comparable. Sure, some get in trouble at sea due to their own “shortcomings” but others through no fault of their own other than that they got on a boat and went. The rescue resources at sea are normally there for commercial purposes and would not be retired if all pleasure boating was eliminated.

  8. Ralph E. Ahseln

    Every time there is some disaster in , what might be loosely called, Sports, there will always someone who’ll write an article justifying the action. It usually ends with the line “They died doing what they loved”… Well, all of that is a …Crock !.
    We see in articles such as this one, yet another common theme “The rescue people are paid to do it”. More Crock !
    I won’t even try to convince the cheer leaders that it’s terribly wrong to jeopardize anyone in an effort to rescue the foolish.
    “73” and still going ? Yet more of that proverbial crock.
    We, as a society, push people into danger by praising them to “Keep going”. The “drug” of notoriety is addictive indeed. As long as we showcase the efforts, they will continue.. Well,, “He died doing what they loved to do “.
    Shall we say as well to those rescue people, “The taxpayers are paying you to risk your life to save those idiots , If you die, you did what you loved to do “.?
    Oh, we’ll not see the end of articles in self serving publication, we’ll not hear “Go get ’em at your advanced age”. No we’ll not see the end of justifications by those caught up in the madness.
    And we’ll continue to see those hallowed words,…. “They died doing what they love to do”.
    No. They just Friggin’ Died !!

  9. Richard Chasse

    Thank God for rescue operations ’round the world. I am in hopes I never need them, yet I am happy they are there.

    My concern is what happens with all the pollutants that go down with the boat? The more abandoned boats the more pollutants; the more polluted fish we cannot eat to stay healthy when live-aboard cruising of on shore.

    Sure wish there was a solution for this part of the rescue.

  10. Martin VB

    I remember Tamarind from the 2000 Ostar, where those of us on the Great Circle also had winds in excess of 60 knots. The 40′ seas are a sight I certainly will never forget. I have been raising kids for several years but will be out there again and hope to also still be racing well Into my 70’s.

  11. Bruce Holsten

    As an avid blue water sailor, the term “hull damage” has significant connotations. And in the case of a trans-Atlantic crossing, it brings to mind even more dire and potentially fatal consequences. My question is do we know the cause and/or circumstances of the hull damage that would sink otherwise highly seaworthy blue water boats?

  12. Don McIntyre

    Well put! Having been involved with both solo sailing, event organisation and participating in Rescues in the Southern Ocean , I support and agree with all your comments…and the simple answer to that age old question who pays for rescue is….those who can afford it..!

  13. Lee Withers

    Just in case the people who wail about boater needing rescue hadn’t noticed there have been boats from the very smallest to ones of many hundred feet that have found them selves on the bottom or nearly fatally wounded.

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