Atlantic Rally yacht hits whale, sinks

Last photo of Outer Limits - Crew waving goodbye happily as they left Bermuda
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The value of undertaking long passages with a rally was shown again this week when a yacht in World Cruising Club's ARC Europe Rally hit a whale and started sinking during an Atlantic Ocean crossing.

A Netherlands-flagged Hanse370e, Outer Limits, was en route from Bermuda to Horta in the Azores with 35 other yachts when the incident occurred.


It was 2230 when the yacht struck a submerged object, believed to be a whale, and stained damage to the hull causing significant water ingress. The crew started the emergency pumps and began the return to Bermuda. However, whilst the pumps were able to contain the leaks, skipper Joost Gehrels, doubted that the boat could safety return to Bermuda, which was approximately 330nm away, and issued a MayDay to request immediate assistance.

It was here that the value of their rally participation paid off. Rally yacht Halo was just 15nm away and diverted to assist. Using the yacht's satellite telephone Joost also contacted RCC Bermuda.

Then the international www.amver.com!AMVER system came to the fore. RCC Bermuda contacted vessels in the area and diverted the merchant ship E R Melbourne to assist.

The E R Melbourne, a 36,000 tonne container ship, reached Outer Limits' position at approximately 00:10, and commenced evacuation of the crew.

Within an hour, the 4 crew members of Outer Limits were safety aboard the merchant ship and the yacht Halo was then asked to stand down. Outer Limits was abandoned, at approximate position 34 19N 59 04W.

The German flagged E R Melbourne has now resumed course for Cagliari, Italy. Outer Limits' skipper Joost Gehrels (Netherlands), speaking via satellite phone said that he and all his crew, Marta Cappiello (Italian), Diane Ferrero (American) and Andrew Siess (American), are safe and well although understandably shaken. They have been able to contact their friends and family ashore and inform them that they are OK.

World Cruising Club Rally manager Lyall Burgess commented on the incident, expressing his thanks to the Master and crew of the E R Melbourne; to RCC Bermuda; and to the double-handed crew of Halo (Mike & Alexandra Bailey) for their professionalism and swift response to the incident.

ARC Europe leaving Bermuda last week
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More information about the World Cruising Club is available on its http://www.worldcruising.com!website.