YM reader Pip Dando was onboard the liner when the former Royal Marine was recovered from his damaged Formosa 42


PHOTOS: QM2 rescues Tamarind skipper Mervyn Wheatley

Competitors in this year’s OSTAR race, from Plymouth to Newport, Rhode Island, were hit by a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ storm, which served up 15m seas and 60-knot winds. The fleet, a mix of solo and two-handed sailors, left Plymouth on 29 May 2017 and the storm hit 11 days later on 8 June, with most of the fleet in mid-Atlantic.

At 0400 on 9 June Mervyn Wheatley, the 73-year-old skipper of Formosa 42 Tamarind, activated his EPIRB after a huge wave knocked her down, smashing a coachroof port on the starboard side. The yacht took on a lot of water. An RAF Hercules was scrambled to coordinate the rescue, along with Canadian SAR services, and the Queen Mary 2 was tasked with recovering Wheatley. Tamarind was scuttled to prevent her becoming a hazard to navigation.

Pip Dando was onboard QM2 on passage from Southampton to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and sent YM this report:

‘Cunard‘s Queen Mary 2 departed Southampton on the afternoon of June 7th bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia. Over the next few days wind and sea conditions worsened and word from the bridge was that we were skirting around the worst of it. In fact the ship handles such conditions with no problem and we were in no discomfort. The hull profile is designed for the transatlantic run and is quite different from the broader beamed cruise ships.

‘On June 9th the captain announced that we were responding to a distress call from a race competitor and on the morning of June 10th a search aircraft directed us to the Tamarind and her skipper Mervyn Wheatley.

‘A bulk carrier was also in the vicinity but we were told they had no suggestions as to how they might retrieve the yachtsman.

QM2‘s master manoeuvred so that the Tamarind drifted down on us and made contact below our deck 5 balcony, very convenient for photographs!

‘A tender was launched (a tricky enough operation even in calmer waters) and after some jockeying for position managed to retrieve Tamarind‘s skipper.

‘The yacht had to be abandoned and was scuttled to prevent it from becoming a hazard.

‘Mervyn Wheatley bravely agreed to be interviewed in QM2‘s theatre and frankly spoke about the disappointment and pain of losing Tamarind. He also praised the seamanship of the QM2 personnel and especially the crew of the rescue tender.

‘In ironic contrast our return journey from New York to Southampton was described by QM2‘s captain as the smoothest he had seen.