Rescuers fight to save world's largest yacht

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The Independent Online

Rescuers trying to save the world's largest single-masted yacht after it ran aground in the Mediterranean said they were close to pulling it free.

Rescuers trying to save the world's largest single-masted yacht after it ran aground in the Mediterranean said they were close to pulling it free.

The £30m Mirabella V, which was launched in Portsmouth in May, hit rocks at Cap Ferrat near the entrance to Beaulieu sur Mer harbour after running into strong winds on Thursday.

"We were caught in a squall and it swung us into the rocks.We tried to manoeuvre to get the boat back under control and the situation become worse," said Paul Johnson of Mirabella Yachts.

"The boat is not budging from the ground because the keel mechanism has failed after the impact. The keel has gone to the bottom and we are only in 5.5 metres [18ft] of water. It doesn't matter what we do at the moment, it won't shift. We are repairing the keel hydraulics and we will hopefully be able to pull it up over night," he said.

He said the rescue team would be forced to use lifting equipment to pull the boat out of the water if the effort to repair the 150-ton keel failed. The keel uses hydraulics to retract from 10 to four metres in shallow waters.

The 780-ton, 86-metre vessel is owned by the former head of the car hire firm Avis, Joe Vittoria, who charters out the boat for £145,000 a week. Mr Johnson said the boat was not carrying any paying passengers when it ran aground.

He added that the Ecstasea, an 86-metre yacht owned by the Russian billionaire and Chelsea chairman Roman Abramovich, had gone to the Mirabella's aid when it ran aground. He was unable to confirm reports that Mr Abramovich's yacht had itself been damaged trying to haul the Mirabella off the rocks.

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