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The rescue of Raindancer crew – A non-World ARC boat

by World Cruising Club 19 Mar 2023 08:09 UTC
World ARC © World Cruising Club

Sailing around the world is a dream for many and each year a large number of boats set off on journeys - some planning a circumnavigation, others crossing the Atlantic or travelling through the Pacific. Of course, everyone hopes for safe sailing and that everything goes smoothly but emergencies do happen at sea and when they do, we see how the sailing community rallies around to help their fellow sailors.

On 13th March 2023 the World ARC fleet were halfway through their longest journey between the Galapagos and Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia), and settled into the routine of life at sea. When under way, the fleet run a daily communications network on SSB radio, to check in with the other boats, report positions, weather and any urgent matters. The duty net controller for the day was Chris from 'Mistral of Portsmouth'. He began the roll call for the fleet and immediately received an emergency message from one of the fleet, 'Far', regarding another boat in the vicinity. Sailing yacht Raindancer had hit a whale and sank less than 15 mins later. The crew of four had evacuated to their dinghy and liferaft.

Chris, who has years of experience handling emergencies over the radio as an ex-airline pilot, coordinated communications to the World ARC fleet via SSB, who rallied around to help fellow sailors in distress. An email was sent via their satellite communication system to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) who then assigned appropriate MRCCs to coordinate the rescue. Ten boats from the fleet were close to the last coordinates provided by Raindancer and immediately changed course to sail towards their location as fast as possible, along with two non-World ARC boats, including SV Rolling Stone who were closest.

The crew on Raindancer had remained calm, and managed, in the 15 minutes between the collision and the yacht sinking, to collect water, provisions, emergency documentation, electronics and safety equipment, load this into the liferaft and secure their dinghy alongside. They had set off their EPIRB and made a mayday call on the VHF radio to alert the emergency services and other boats in the area to the situation.

Communications at sea are very different from on land and this situation was a demonstration of the many ways boats can now keep in contact. Mistral of Portsmouth kept the World ARC fleet updated every hour via the SSB radio, with other boats in the fleet and nearby boats also assisting by passing updates on via satellite communications. The skipper of Raindancer has said that the crew's Iridium GO! device, which they carried along with their SPOT tracker, was instrumental in their rescue.

Just after 0500UTC, within 10 hours of Raindancer sinking, her four crew were rescued and taken safely aboard the catamaran Rolling Stone. They will continue their journey to French Polynesia onboard Rolling Stone and are extremely grateful for the efforts of all involved in the rescue. They have said that the sailing community that rallied around them were fantastic and meant what must have been an extremely scary situation had a successful outcome.

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