Crew disembarked in Lisbon, thanks to all participants in rescue...
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Crew disembarked in Lisbon, thanks to all participants in rescue operation

Crew disembarked in Lisbon, thanks to all participants in rescue operation

14 February 2017 - 14:00 - Update: 14 February 2017 - 23:00


In the morning of Feb 13 the crew of the "Clyde Challenger", 13 British and one US national were disembarked from the HMS "Dragon" in Lisbon. In the evening of Feb the yacht was hit by a large rogue wave during passage from Horta to the UK. She was sailing well at the time with a fully reefed mainsail. The impact of the wave knocked the yacht on her side. She recovered within a few seconds, however the mast had been severed at deck level. In addition the instrument pole at the stern of the yacht was also severed and a number of safety related items and communication systems were lost. The team quickly ascertained that all crew were accounted for and did not need any urgent medical attention. The crew then executed the appropriate procedures to alert other vessels in the area of their issue and triggered their long range satellite emergency beacon. The beacon alert was picked up by the UK Coastguard at 8 p.m. The vessel was about 400 nautical miles west-south-west of Cape Finisterre when it suffered significant damage following days of strong winds and heavy seas. "A rogue wave coming in the opposite direction hit the ship. It hit us and knocked us over and dragged the crosstrees into the water, which dragged the mast into the water and snapped it at deck level. There were maybe a few doubts in my mind but when I knew HMS Dragon was coming for us, I knew it was going to be a positive outcome. We are really pleased the Navy took up the challenge to come and rescue us", said the yacht’s skipper, 66-year-old Roy Graham, from Prestwick. The UK Coastguard’s National Maritime Operations Centre co-ordinated the long-range search and rescue mission. The Coastguard used satellite communications to request vessels able to assist the yacht to contact UK Coastguard and several responded with offers of help. The first merchant vessel on scene was the "Industrial Challenger" on the evening of Feb 9. It established contact with the "Clyde Challenger" and communicated with UK Coastguard about the issues with the vessel and the wellbeing of the crew. A C130 Hercules aircraft from 47 Squadron RAF Brize Norton arrived on scene on Feb 10 at 8 a.m. on and immediately located the Clyde Challenger. It provided on-scene communications to all of the vessels, aircraft and operations rooms involved in the mission. The Hercules was soon joined by the bulk carrier "Cape Breeze". Due to the storm-force conditions on scene the master of the bulk carrier deemed it too dangerous to close on the stricken yacht to facilitate a rescue. The tank ships "CPO Finland" and "Sti Dama" arrived on the afternoon of Feb 10 at which time the Hercules was replaced by a US Air Force KC 135 Tanker from 100th air refuelling wing based at RAF Mildenhall. With weather on scene still precluding rescue efforts the "Cape Breeze" and "Sti Dama" were released. The "CPO Finland" remained on scene and attempted – without success – to rescue the crew three times. Following liaison with UK Coastguard, on the evening of Friday 10 February, the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyer HMS "Dragon" began making its way towards the Clyde Challenger’s position 500 nautical miles away. Prior to the arrival of HMS "Dragon" the US Air Force 352nd Special Operations Group V22 Ospreys based out of RAF Mildenhall were cued up to attempt a long-range option but due to the weather on scene this option was not viable. On the morning of Feb 11 the first of two US Navy patrol aircraft out of US Naval Air Station Sigonella replaced the Tanker aircraft as on-scene communications co-ordinator. The merchant vessel "Antimilos" also arrived on scene. As the yacht hull was secure and capable of supporting the crew the decision was taken not to undertake an immediate transfer but to investigate all options. There was no damage to the rudder as initially suspected. The UK Coastguard rescue co-ordination team then worked hard with multiple agencies to maintain safety cover on site and communication with the vessel while crew transfer options were finalised. After sprinting at 30 knots through turbulent seas for 20 hours, the Royal Navy T45 Destroyer HMS "Dragon" under the command of Captain Craig Wood arrived on scene on Feb 11 at 2.30 p.m. and began the rescue of the 14 sailors using their two Pacific 24ft sea boats. The yacht had lost its mast and looked in a pretty desperate state after nearly 48 hours drifting in the challenging conditions. Despite racing through the night there were only three hours of daylight remaining in which to safely remove the crew. Both large sea boats capable of carrying six passengers each were able to transfer the crew as quickly as possible. The prevailing weather conditions and notorious Atlantic swell made it enormously challenging though and really tested the skills of the experienced sea boat coxswains. All crew had been rescued by 4.50 p.m. Once safely on board HMS "Dragon" the relieved crew were given medical attention, hot food and the opportunity to call loved ones at home. Due to the severity of the damage to the yacht, the loss of equipment and the forecast weather the skipper was left with no option but to scuttle the yacht to ensure she did not represent a hazard to navigation. Other vessels that responded but did not participate in the search and rescue mission were the "Marco Polo", "Afric Star", "Ugale" and a Portuguese warship. The skipper, crew and shore team behind Clyde Challenger wish to express their thanks for all the messages of support they have received following the successful transfer of the crew and scuttling of the yacht in pos. 45 13.42 N 017^07.5 W, at 5.30 p.m. to ensure she was not a navigational hazard for other mariners. 

Source: VesselTracker.Com
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