Thursday, 26 August 2010

Sailboat Anna Catamaran Capsize and Rescue near Niue South Pacific

The sailing Catamaran “Anna” Capsized While Cruising Near Niue on Augus 2, 2010.

Fortunately the crew, owner/skipper Kelly Wright and his crewman were rescued by the 'Forum Pacific' which was diverted from approximately 80 nautical miles away.

The news of Anna, an Atlantic 57 sailing catamaran, capsized in the South Pacific, was reported yesterday on the Pacific Puddle Jump Cruisers Forum by Scott & Cindy Stolnitz (S/V BeachHouse). Here is the media release from Maritime NZ, pasted from their website:

'Two men have been rescued by a cargo ship after their yacht capsized in stormy seas near Niue yesterday, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) says. RCCNZ detected an emergency locator beacon signal from the American-flagged 57-foot (around 17 metres) catamaran Anna yesterday about 4pm. The signal was coming from a location around 126 nautical miles (around 233 kilometres) west of Niue. Local weather reports indicated heavy seas and storm conditions.

Repeated efforts to contact the yacht were unsuccessful, despite Anna having a range of communications equipment on board.

RCCNZ dispatched an Air Force P3 Orion from New Zealand and the cargo ship Forum Pacific, 80 nautical miles away from Anna, was asked to divert to the signal’s location. The P3 Orion arrived on scene about 11pm yesterday and found Anna capsized and inverted. However, the American skipper and his New Zealand crewman were safe, one still on board Anna, and one in an inflatable dinghy attached to the catamaran. The P3 Orion maintained a vigil over the men overnight while Forum Pacific made its way to the scene.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue mission controller Mike Roberts said the cargo ship arrived about 6am and the two men were now safe on board and en route to Niue. RCCNZ had broadcast a navigation warning to other vessels advising of the location of the capsized catamaran.

Mr Roberts said the fact the beacon was GPS-enabled had greatly assisted the men’s rescue.
“With GPS positioning, we were able to accurately pinpoint the location of the vessel and send the Orion directly to the scene. Given the stormy conditions, the speed that we were able to reach the men made a huge difference to their safety.

“Furthermore, the fact the beacon was registered meant we were able to contact the skipper’s wife and obtain information as to who was on board and what kind of equipment they had with them.”

The catamaran was designed by Chris White, one of the preeminent multihull designers in the world. Anna was built by Alwoplast, located in Valdivia, Chile. Owner/skipper Kelly Wright has about 30,000 miles at sea on yachts and is planning to circumnavigate the world with Anna. Shortly after setting off, Kelly wrote this on his Blog – S/Y Anna:

“In retrospect we really should have undertaken an extra few days of training before we set off from Valdivia. The launching of the boat had been delayed, though, so the sailing season was getting ever shorter as winter set in, and so we eagerly grasped at the first opportunity to leave, due somewhat to the natural impatience of our skipper.

All would have still been fine had we not been supplied with defective turnbuckles that attach the stays and shrouds – stainless steel cable and rod – to the hulls. We would have made the same teething mistakes anyway, getting used to the gear and the layout, but we would not have been put in the situation we are in now, which is pre-crisis, preparing for the worst case of losing the boat, which is a remote possibility.”

The boat and crew endured more than their typical share of storms and breakdowns. This past June, they had to return to New Zealand after having just set off, to make repairs. Here’s an excerpt from Kelly’s Blog:

“The next day passed comfortably enough for us, lying around in the pilothouse, napping, reading, but the winds shifted back to the Northwest and built to over 40 knots – the high was 48 knots – and the seas kept getting larger and larger. It was quite interesting watching them and observing how well Anna responded, riding gently over the breaking crests and down into the valleys, with the wind blowing the tops off the waves, spume shooting almost horizontally. We congratulated ourselves on how well our boat was handling the conditions, and how comfortable we were. Every now and then, however, a big wave would break right on top of us and crash into Anna beam on, knocking us around, spilling all the books from the bookshelves, knocking the dinghy off its chocks on the aft deck, and making a huge roar. It is always difficult to estimate the height of waves from inside a bobbing boat, but our mast rises about 75 feet (23 meters) from the waterline, and it appeared from my vantage point in the pilothouse that the highest waves were approaching half the height of the mast. They were the biggest seas I have ever been in, I think, and quite irregular, coming from several directions.

I suppose it must have been one of those big crashing waves that jerked the rudders in such a way that the steering cables came off, and we were left without steering. It was getting dark, around 1700 (5 p.m.) and I had just gotten off watch and was down in my berth when John informed me that we had no steering, and the rudders were thrashing around madly in the rudder compartments. The starboard rudder had broken its safety line and was totally out of control, even dangerous to try to tame. We stuck the emergency tiller into the head of the rudder post, but the force of the seas slapped it against the bulkhead and broke the tiller in two. Moreover, working in the confined space of the rudder compartments in the thrashing seas was making everyone seasick."







The blog finishes at that point, so look out for more updates from this blog later.

This rescue and the loss of ones own boat highlights the potential dangers that can be encountered at sea. In reading his blog, Kelly admits himself that they left too late in the winter season and that area of the Pacific is notorious for winter storms. Once a catamaran has capsized it will not right itself, so they were stuck and had to rely on being rescued.

They were well prepared for that and had onboard, and were able to activate their distress beacon. This also highlights the effectiveness in the saving of lives of these brilliant pieces of safety equipment.

The video is worth watching to see the rescue technique of the 'Pacific Forum' and the interesting safety line projector used. The seas had obviously abated considerably by the time she arrived on the scene and I would conjecture that 'Anna' would have received much greater damage if the storm was still up at the time.

What the outcome will be regarding the salvage of 'Anna' is still unknown, but in the meantime I think all parties invloved would be very happy that the saga ended with no loss of life.

News extract courtesy from 'Pacific Puddle Jump Cruisers', images courtesy Kelly Wright, video from YouTube.

For further updates on this incident please check out this blog on wwwsailboat2adventurecom.blogspot.com/

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