9 crew taken off gale-lashed yacht

At just after 5.30 a.m. this morning a 406 MHz Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) `hit’ was received by Falmouth Coastguard who passed the alert to their colleagues in Aberdeen.

After investigation it appeared that the signal was being transmitted from the 19 metre Swedish yacht `Merengue’ which had departed from Skargen in northern Denmark and was bound for Brighton on the south coast. The Swedish Coastguard confirmed that there were 11 people on board.

Once the position of the yacht was verified as 81 miles north from Aberdeen, several attempts at contacting the yacht were made by the Coastguard but with no success.

A nearby floating oil production platform `Buchan Alpha’ was then contacted by Aberdeen Coastguard who in turn were able to contact the yacht by VHF radio and to establish communications and ascertain their condition.

It was then reported that the EPIRB had been activated after the yacht had suffered hull damage. A supply vessel `Stirling Aquarius’ responded to the emergency calls and stood by the yacht.

Weather conditions at the time were 35 – 40 knots of west sou’ westerly wind with a 3 metre sea, and the yacht was drifting at about 2 knots.

A rescue helicopter was scrambled with a pump on board and the Peterhead lifeboat was also requested to launch. Once the helicopter arrived it was agreed that 9 of the Swedish nationals would be lifted off.

It was also established when the lifeboat arrived that the vessel’s hull was delaminating.

Two crew were left on board with a Coastguard pump and the vessel was escorted to Peterhead by the RNLI lifeboat.