Crew pulled from sea as Fastnet yacht capsizes


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The Independent Online

Twenty-one crew members on board a racing yacht were dramatically rescued last night after it capsized off the Irish coast.

The Rambler 100 was taking part in the Fastnet Race when it overturned about 16 miles from Baltimore, County Cork, just before 6pm.

Some 314 yachts – including six Irish boats – are taking part in the Rolex Fastnet Race and set sail from Cowes on the Isle of Wight on Sunday.

According to rescuers, the keel of the boat broke shortly after it passed the Fastnet Rock, causing it to overturn within 15 seconds and throwing everyone overboard.

The RNLI said 16 crew members were sitting on the hull of the 100ft vessel and five were missing when a lifeboat from Baltimore arrived at the scene just after 8pm.

One woman was airlifted to hospital after spending several hours in the water.

Sixteen crew members sitting on the hull of the vessel were airlifted to safety. Another five who were in a life raft were taken on board other yachts.

Kieran Cotter, coxswain of the volunteer crew, said: "We picked the 16 people off the hull and took them on board the lifeboat with our dinghy going back and forth and organised for other boats in the area to search for the missing five. They were picked up by a local diving boat." The five included a man in his seventies, he added.

The alarm was raised when the yacht's personal locator beacon was activated when it overturned five miles south-west of Fastnet Lighthouse.

Mr Cotter, whose crew was on an exercise in the area, said the sea was not rough but that visibility was down to a mile as they searched for the stricken yacht and crew.

The Irish Coast Guard co-ordinated the rescue operation, which involved Baltimore RNLI, the Shannon and Waterford-based rescue helicopters and Irish Naval vessel the LE Ciara.

One crew member was treated in hospital and 20 were taken back to Baltimore harbour, where they were assessed by medical staff.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial event takes the fleet 608 miles along the south coast of the UK and across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock off south-west Ireland, before returning around the Isles of Scilly to the finish in Plymouth.