French yacht Houbo, with Franc Navaro, 45, and crewman Phillipe Massa, 50, on board was towed into Richards Bay on Monday by “ Spirit of Richards Bay” after being battered by a severe storm 50 nautical miles short of their destination.
Richards Bay station commander, Dorian Robertson, said that they were placed on standby on Saturday after being told that the Houbo was limping towards Richards Bay, escorted by the yacht Philigic.
The two men had left from the Comores Islands two weeks ago and were planning to refurbish their yacht in Richards Bay when disaster struck.
Says Dorian, “Houbo was caught by a storm and battered by 60 knot winds. She was knocked down, sustaining substantial damage.
According to The Mercury newspaper, yacht crewman Phillipe Massa said that they had ridden out one storm when the wind changed direction and a second storm hit them.
“ The waves were between 15 and 18 m high, I had been steering for a long time and was tired so I called Franc to take over from me so I could take a break,” said Phillipe.
“ He just sat down and before he could fasten his safety strap, a wave hit us and he went overboard.“ He swam like crazy and managed to grab hold of the boat and pull himself back onboard.”
Massa said he had closed the doors to the cabin before the yacht capsized. “ The boat rolled over twice, but fortunately it righted itself and, because the cabin was closed, we only took on a bit of water,” he said.
But it was enough to damage their navigation and communication systems, the wind vane that provided electricity for the yacht, the solar panels, the main sail boom, the main sail and the front main sail. Luckily their food and water was safe as it was well secured inside the cabin.
Their lifeboat was also lost overboard.
“Ham Radio operator Roy Cook, in Durban, had intercepted a call for assistance, via a Ham Radio marine VHF monitoring frequency. He contacted NSRI Richards Bay at around 17h30 on Saturday afternoon reporting that the yacht Philigic had heard the two Frenchmen calling for assistance from a handheld VHF radio and gone to their aid,”said Dorian.
They were able to give Houbo a spare battery so that they had lights at night, and offered to escort them to Richards Bay.
“Roy Cook monitored the yachts and kept Sea Rescue abreast of their progress.
“At 16h00 on Monday, Richards Bay launched our rescue craft “Spirit of Richards Bay” and rendezvoused with Houbo 12 nautical miles off-shore, in 25 knot North Easterly winds and a 1 to 2 metre swell. A towline was rigged and the yacht has been brought safely to moorings in the Port of Richards Bay,”said Dorian.