Part four: October to December
A British yachtsman single-handedly rescued three French sailors from certain drowning after their boat sank off La Rochelle.
Andrew Gallacher, 68, was sailing his Nicholson 35, Levington Lass, from Portugal back to the UK when he pulled into the Atlantic port to refuel and spotted the crew of a capsized RIB clinging to the hull.
He said: ‘The boat was swamped with only about 18 inches of the bow sticking up above water.’ When he reached the crew, one of the men, who couldn’t swim, was suffering from hypothermia and they had only one lifejacket between them.
Mr Gallacher said: ‘It was a tough moment, but I managed to get them all on board, into dry clothes and get some hot drinks down them and put them to bed.’
A French lifeboat arrived shortly afterwards and transferred the three men ashore, one of them to hospital.
A 37ft charter yacht, which lost its keel after hitting rocks, went on to complete three more charters and more than 100 miles at sea before anyone noticed.
Polbream, a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 37, was on a £1,000-a-week skippered charter with Cornish Cruising, when she broached in a Force 5 on passage from Falmouth to the Helford River.
Caroline McGunigall, 36, was sailing the boat with her husband and another couple. She said: ‘It was quite frightening. The skipper was down below at the time and we were struggling to control her. We thought it might be a problem with the rudder.’
When Mrs McGunigall returned to the charter base at the end of the week, after completing their charter on another yacht, they saw that Polbream has been lifted ashore and the keel was completely missing.
Nick Jordan, owner of Cornish Cruising, said a previous charterer had hit Little Kittern Rock in the Isles of Scilly, where the keel was later recovered, but he failed to seriousness of the incident at the time.
The boat then sailed back to Falmouth before being taken by a second charter party to Plymouth and back, before the third charter party – Mrs McGunigall’s – discovered the problem.
Footnote: See the March issue of Yachting Monthly for the exclusive, eyewitness story of the skipper who sailed the yacht without a keel.
As Sir Francis Chichester’s yacht, Gipsy Moth IV (pictured above), faced the threat of being sold to an overseas buyer, Dr Kevin Fewster, director of London’s National Maritime Museum, told YM that the museum had no room to exhibit Gipsy Moth IV, even if she was offered as a gift.
He said the museum could not accommodate the 53ft ketch, despite a new £20million, 900ft long extension.
YM editor Paul Gelder, who campaigned to have her sailed around the world again in 2005-2007, said: ‘It’s disappointing that as a maritime nation our major institutions have turned their back on this iconic vessel. We should celebrate British achievements.’
Footnote: Dr Fewster later said: ‘The museum could theoretically take Gipsy Moth‘s 53ft hull, but not rigged. The maximum ceiling height is 42ft. Gipsy Moth measures a touch over 60ft from the bottom of her keel to the top of her mainmast. Exhibiting her without masts and sails would be pointless as it would completely deprive the boat of its integrity. The exhibition hall in the new Sammy Ofer Wing is barely high enough to take Gipsy Moth’s hull. We couldn’t get her hull down the stairs; at least, not without completely dismembering her.’