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4 sailing yacht crew rescued after their sailing yacht started to take on water after reportedly colliding with a container at sea - they were returning to Durban from East London following the completion of the Vasco da Gama Ocean Race 2024 - Durban to East London:

Gert du Plessis, NSRI Port Edward station commander, said: At 19h38, Friday, 24 May, NSRI Port Edward duty crew were activated following reports from the Vasco da Gama Ocean Race 2024 (VdGOR2024) coordinators reporting the VdGOR2024 sailing yacht Tipsy reporting to their race control that they were taking on water and sinking off-shore of the Eastern Cape Coastline (the former Transkei) in the vicinity of Rame Head near Umgazana, Lutatweni about a nautical mile off-shore.

The Vasco da Gamma Ocean Race 2024 had completed and sailing yachts were returning to their home Ports following the Ocean race.

The 4 crew onboard, a female age 61, and 3 males, ages 69 (skipper), and 64 and 62, all from Durban, reported to be abandoning their sailing vessel into a life raft.

Telkom Maritime Radio Services relayed a Mayday distress call and the sailing yacht Zing diverted to respond - reporting to be approximately 4 hours from the casualty sailing vessel.

Vasco da Gama Ocean Race 2024 coordinators assisted with logistics, coordination and communications in cooperation with Telkom Maritime Radio Services, NSRI EOC (Emergency Operations Centre), NSRI Port Edward, NSRI East London, NSRI Shelly Beach and NSRI Durban – duty controllers.

Additional NSRI Operations duty managers assisted at NSRI EOC (at NSRI Headquarters).

The NSRI Port Edward rescue craft Spirit of Steve was launched (carrying extra fuel).

NSRI Shelly Beach were tasked to launch as a back-up rescue vessel.

The NSRI Shelly Beach rescue craft Spirit of Dawn was launched (carrying extra fuel).

NSRI Durban, NSRI Mdumbi, NSRI Port St Johns and NSRI East London duty crews were placed on alert.

The SA Police Services, EC Government Health EMS and Police Search and Rescue were placed on alert.

Initially the estimation was that was the distance from Port Edward to reach the life-raft, with all 4 casualty crew reporting to be adrift but safe, although cold, in their life raft, was 55 nautical miles from Port Edward - they were estimated to be in the vicinity of Port St Johns - about a nautical mile off-shore.

The casualty crew were instructed to only turn on one cell phone in an effort to preserve the battery power on their remaining phones.

Telkom Maritime Radio Services provided excellent marine VHF communications to the responding NSRI rescue craft and to the sailing yacht Zing that had diverted to assist. Telkom Maritime Radio Services are commended for their assistance.

An NSRI Port Edward rescue vehicle was dispatched to respond to aid in communications.

MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) and TNPA (Transnet National Ports Authority) were alerted and they were kept briefed by NSRI’s EOC (Emergency Operations Centre).

Local community, local Municipal lifeguards and local back-packers, along that stretch of coastline, were contacted by NSRI EOC and they were requested to keep a lookout.

On arrival at Port St Johns the NSRI Port Edward rescue craft determined that the casualty sailing yacht and the casualty life raft had drifted, in the overcast heavy rain conditions, with up to 2 meter sea swells, but fair seas, and light North Easterly winds, South of Port St Johns and they were at that stage in the vicinity of Coffee Bay – now some 79 nautical miles from Port Edward.

NSRI rescue craft were warned to keep a look-out for the floating container and/or any further floating containers that might be in the area. It remains unknown where the floating container that caused the accident may have originated from - that warning to vessels in that area remains valid - to be on the look-out and to proceed with caution based on the collision that occurred at sea with the sailing yacht Tipsy.

Sea swell currents direction changed continuously during the operation.

The NSRI Shelly Beach rescue craft reached the vicinity of Mbotyi and stood by there as safety back-up to the rescue operation.

NSRI East London alerted the Police Air Wing and alerted the EC Government Health EMS rescue helicopter to be on stand-by.

After going past Port St Johns the NSRI Port Edward rescue crew, onboard the rescue craft Spirit of Steve, requested the casualty crew to deploy a 1000 foot red distress parachute flare.

That flare could be seen by NSRI Port Edwards crew but much further South than initially determined and was noticeable barely on the horizon South of the position of the rescue craft.

Then on reaching the search area – off-shore of Coffee Bay – the casualty sailing yacht was located adrift, close off-shore at the back breakers, with her bow up and stern deep under water but still barely semi submerged.

NSRI Port Edward rescue crew then requested the casualty crew to set off another red distress flare. It was decided to set off a pencil red distress flare (in order to keep the 1000 foot flares as back-up in case they were not located).

That pencil red distress pencil flare, that was deployed, was discovered to have been fired about 1 nautical mile from the NSRI rescue craft and the NSRI Port Edward crew located and recovered all 4 crew from their life raft at 01h23.

All 4 crew were found to be safe and not injured despite being a bit cold and thirsty. They were provided blankets and hydration.

All 4 casualty crew were in good spirits and there was relief and joy expressed by their families, Vasco da Gama race coordinators and fellow race sailing yachts as well as Police, NSRI and the emergency services.

Their life-raft was recovered and deflated and brought home.

The NSRI Port Edward rescue craft, with all 4 casualty crew onboard the rescue craft, and safe, together with the deflated life raft, then embarked on the return journey towards Port Edward.

At Mbotyi they rendezvoused with the NSRI Shelly Beach rescue craft Spirit of Dawn. There they refuelled the NSRI Port Edwards rescue craft Spirit of Steve and together they continued up the coastline towards Port Edward.

Med-Evac ambulance services were activated to respond to Port Edward NSRI station 32 rescue base.

On arrival at Port Edward the NSRI Shelly Beach rescue craft bid farewell and continued on towards Shelly Beach arriving at their NSRI Shelly Beach station 20 rescue base at 07h09.

Paramedics, from Med-Evac ambulance services, medically checked out the 4 casualty crew who were treated for hypothermia and hydration – they required no further medical care. They are commended for their assistance.

The casualty crew will stay at friends at Port Edward before returning to Durban.

The casualty sailing yacht, Tipsy, has been found washed ashore on the rocky shoreline in the vicinity of Coffee Bay.

This is the longest NSRI RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Craft) rescue operation in the history of NSRI – the NSRI Port Edward rescue craft Spirit of Steve covered a distance of approximately 158 nautical miles in total.

The NSRI Port Edward duty crew are commended for this successful rescue operation.

NSRI Mdumbi duty crew are assisting at Coffee Bay to recover personal items from the casualty sailing yacht for her crew who are resting in Port Edward.

NSRI commends the swift response and cooperation between all services involved, the Vasco da Gama race coordinators and the excellent marine VHF communications provided by Telkom Maritime Radio Services.

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