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Little and Large: Small Sailboat in Distress Finds Unlikely Rescuer in Form of 50m Tall Ship

8th May 2023
The tall ship Götheborg of Sweden approaches to assist the stricken eight-metre Corto
The tall ship Götheborg of Sweden approaches to assist the stricken eight-metre Corto Credit: David Moeneclaey

A small sailboat in distress off the French coast recently had the most unlikely of rescuers in the form of an enormous tall ship.

The 47m Götheborg of Sweden was en route to Jersey on Tuesday, 25 April, when it received a distress call from the MRCC reporting a sailing boat that had lost its rudder and was adrift some 50 nautical miles from the coast of Brittany.

As the closest vessel to the casualty boat, Corto, the tall ship responded immediately to its rescue — a surprising turn of events for the smaller boat’s crew.

“We repeatedly emphasised that we were aboard a small eight-metre sailboat, but the response was the same each time: ‘We are a 50-metre three-masted sailboat, and we offer our assistance in towing you to Paimpol,’” said David Moeneclaey, skipper of the Corto.

“We were perplexed by the size difference between our two boats, as we feared being towed by a boat that was too large and at too fast a speed that could damage our boat.”

Keeping watch from the deck of Götheborg of Sweden on the Corto under tow | Credit: Linus HjelmKeeping watch from the deck of Götheborg of Sweden on the Corto under tow | Credit: Linus Hjelm

The arrival of the Götheborg was even more surreal for Moeneclaey: “We did not expect to see a merchant ship from the East India Company of the 18th century. This moment was very strange, and we wondered if we were dreaming. Where were we? What time period was it?”

Despite the skipper’s concerns, however, the tow was set up without issue and the smaller boat was handed off to the care of a French search and rescue vessel from the port of Paimpol the following morning.

Moeneclaey added: “This adventure, very real, was an incredible experience for us. We were extremely lucky to cross paths with the Götheborg by chance and especially to meet such a caring crew.

“Dear commander and crew of the Götheborg, your kindness, and generosity have shown that your ship is much more than just a boat. It embodies the noblest values of the sea, and we are honoured to have had the chance to cross your path and benefit from your help.”

Commenting later, the Götheborg team said: “For us it was an honour to be able to help out, and an experience for everyone on board!”

Götheborg of Sweden was built in 2005 modelled after a typical 18th-century merchant vessel. In a concession to the 21st century, the ship is powered by two Volvo Penta 404 kW diesel engines when its sails can’t catch the wind.

Published in Tall Ships, Rescue
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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