Baltimore RNLI lifeboat crew were involved in the major rescue operation this evening (Monday 15 August 2011) when a 100 ft yacht capsized during the famous Fastnet race with a crew of 21 onboard. Five of the crew were missing when the lifeboat arrived on scene while the remaining sixteen were huddled together on the upturned hull.
Baltimore lifeboat finds crew clinging to a daggerboard. Photo: RNLI
The Baltimore RNLI lifeboat was out on exercise near the Fastnet rock when they were alerted by Valentia Coast Guard that an emergency signal had been picked up. The lifeboat volunteer crew under Coxswain Keiron Cotter proceeded to the area and started a search. About sixteen miles southwest of Baltimore and five miles south of the Fastnet the lifeboat crew spotted the upturned yacht with the sixteen crewmembers on the hull. They told the lifeboat volunteers that five of their crew had drifted away from the yacht. After a short search the Coxswain returned to the scene and recovered the casualties onboard. They had been there for approximately three hours since their yacht capsized shortly after 5.30pm.
The other five crewmembers who were missing had managed to tether themselves together and were spotted in the water by the Baltimore deputy mechanic Jerry Smith who had taken out his own Dive boat to join in the search. One of the five was airlifted by the Irish Coast Guard helicopter to receive medical attention.
Rescued crew rejoice that all are safe, some spent three hours in the water. Photo: RNLI
The remaining twenty were brought ashore at Balimore Harbour and taken to the local sailing club to be assessed.
Baltimore RNLI Coxswain Keiron Cotter said, "We had no idea what we were looking for and it was extremely hard to spot the upturned yacht in the water. They had been there for about three hours with other vessels in the race passing nearby but not being able to see them. We were out on exercise in the area where they capsized and we must have just missed them by minutes.
We saw a light in the distance and did not know what it was so we went closer to investigate it. When we got nearer we saw that it was a torch the casualties were flashing to attract attention. Our priority was to get them back to shore as quickly as possible."
More photos and latest news in our Fastnet Coverage here