Third time unlucky for sailing school

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The sail-training yacht rescued by lifeboats and escorted into Dover earlier this week had set off from Southampton with a gale and a possible Force 10 storm forecast before she departed.

Liquid Vortex, a Beneteau First 40.7, owned by Hot Liquid Sailing, had six crew aboard and was bound downwind for Ramsgate. The day after she left Shamrock Quay, four of her crew were unable to stand a watch through sea-sickness. Between Dungeness and Dover the forecast worsened and a Force 11 was announced by Dover Coastguard.

The skipper decided to head for Dover and sent out a Pan Pan to Dover Coastguard as a safety precaution. Dover Coastguard then called for a lifeboat to escort the yacht into Dover.

Shortly after the lifeboat met the yacht she was hit by a large wave from astern throwing the helmsman against the wheel bending it so that it could not be turned. He was taken below with an injured jaw and bruised ribs.

A report sent by Hot Liquid Sailing to the MAIB takes up the sailing school’s side of the story: “Due to the lack of steering capability the Lifeboat secured a tow to Liquid Vortex with the intention of towing to Dover. Unfortunately, due to the yacht slewing with the given sea state and lack of helming capabilities, the tow line chaffed and snapped. A second tow line was rigged with the same outcome. The RNLI passed dedicated bridal lines to secure a third tow; unfortunately this tow failed by pulling a bow cleat from the yacht.

“The skipper along with a lifeboat crewman managed to straighten the wheel which allowed the skipper to helm and motor the yacht under her own power.

“A rescue helicopter was sent to evacuate the injured crewman. The decision was made whilst the helicopter was with yacht to also evacuate the three other crew who were feeling seasick. The four evacuated crew flew to the local hospital in Ramsgate and were subsequently released soon after. Fortunately the injured helmsman hadn’t suffered any serious injury but had a bruised jaw and ribs.

“The RNLI Lifeboat then secured a final tow to assist Liquid Vortex into Ramsgate Harbour due to deteriorating weather now reaching Force 10/11 where she berthed under her own power.”

Jason Manning of Hot Liquid Sailing then issued a statement part of which includes his disappointment with the way the rescue has been reported.

‘Given the press coverage and some very negative comments on social media and in forums etc that surround this rescue, we feel it is important to highlight that all six crew were paying individuals gaining further yachting experience and all were existing Hot Liquid sea school students and all had an RYA qualification; there were no novices on board.’

Mr Manning told Yachting Monthly that when Liquid Vortex set off she had a south-westerly Force 5-6 which would give her plenty of time to seek refuge in either Brighton, or Eastbourne should the weather deterioate further. It was not until 5 am the following morning that the boat found herself running before a Force 7 to 8 and at that point the skipper decided they would head for Dover.

This incident is the third time in 12 months that the Hot Liquid Fusion company has had unfortunate accidents. The first was in January last year when Liquid Fusion a Bavaria 36 hit the Goodwin Sands and broke up in a south-westerly gale. Her crew were air-lifted to safety. The second was in May when Liquid Vortex was in a Channel race in a south-westerly Force 5 when she gybed trying to avoid a fishing boat and the helmswoman was taken to hospital with head and spine injuries after being hit by the mainsheet. An MAIB report subsequently found some of the crew were inexperienced and that the skipper had not fully assessed the potential risk of collision.