Account of a mid-ocean rescue

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The Inaugural Antigua Bermuda Race that started on May 12, 2017 had 21 boats, including the three-masted schooner Spirit of Bermuda, sailing the 935-nautical mile course. For one of those boats, a Farr PH 56 named Monterey captained by Les Crane, the race became an unfortunate exercise in mid-sea rescue. Early in the morning of May 17, Crane and his crew on Monterey discovered the boat was sinking and they were forced to abandon the vessel. Three boats diverted to render assistance, Esprit de Corp IV, Spirit of Bermuda and Challenger. Esprit de Corp IV, skippered by Giles Bardot, was the closest competitor and reached the scene first and took aboard the six crew members of Monterey.

In a post on the Antigua to Bermuda Race website, Les Crane, who in addition to captaining Monterey is also Antigua Bermuda Race chairman, described the situation and rescue:

“I came up on watch at 4 a.m; we were beating into 10-15 knots but the boat was very comfortable with the wind and the sea state. The active watch told me that all was well apart from hearing a bang from below at about 3:30am. I went to investigate and found that the forward head was full of water. I got the helmsman to stand the boat up and I drained the head through the pump. I thought I better have a look around and found water in the galley and under the floorboards in the saloon. I then realised we were once again bow down and found a lot of water in the saloon. I got everyone up and while I was trying to figure out what the problem was, the crew used the YB Tracker player to locate Esprit de Corps IV (EDS), which was about four miles behind us.

“Kit Tatum tried to raise them on the radio, but we had a few problems with it, although realised it was key to get Esprit de Corps’ attention. Jock Macrae started to set off flares and that caught their attention and EDS altered course towards us. We started to get the life raft ready and deployed it. I went back to see if I could identify how to stop the water and by then the bow was filled with about four feet of water and was coming in really quickly. So we got into the liferaft and EDS came up really quickly and took us all on board. I then watched Monterey sink! We have had the boat for 14 years and we’ve sailed 40,000 miles in her, but there was nothing I could do.

“Gilles (Barbot), Maxime (Grimard) and the crew of Esprit de Corps from Montreal are a fabulous bunch of guys. They made us feel so welcome on board and got us all involved in racing the boat. In fact, I was watch leader last night for four hours! I can't thank them enough for what they have done.”

Esprit de Corp IV skipper Giles Bardot and crewman Tristan Péloquin added their own comments:

"When the first orange safety flare appeared in the sky, illuminating Esprit de Corps IV's foredeck, the bearing to take was for once, very obvious. The whole crew immediately turned to rescue mode," says Tristan Péloquin, crew on Esprit de Corps IV. 

"The monohull went straight full ahead – engine roaring – in the direction of the distressed ship. Both boats were about four or five miles apart. The first 20 minutes to destination were stressful as we were unable to establish radio communication. What were we to expect? A fire? A man overboard? Worse? And then, Les Crane's calm voice cracked through the static of the radio. Monterey was taking on lots of water, but her six crewman were okay. When we flanked her, the six men were about to board the rescue raft… and to say a last goodbye to Monterey. She sank minutes later. But a very strong friendship emerged from it. Les, Kit, Cam, Jock, Bob and James, aboard Esprit de Corps IV since the rescue, are now an integral part of its crew. They participate with the maneuvers, take the helm, and grind our sails. With them, we share our bunk beds, our food and lots of philosophical reflections. Their views are now tainted by a new way of seeing life. «It's in the highly emotional moments like these that relationships tend to crystallize. These new friendships will definitely remain strong, for a very long time», says skipper Gilles Barbot, who oversaw the rescue operation at the helm of the Volvo Ocean Racer. We made friends for life and for me, this is the only meaning of this whole race!" 

Crew List: Monterey, Farr PH 56, BER

Skipper: Les Crane, Cam Macrae, Jock Macrae, Bob Medland, Kit Tatum, James Watlington 

Crew List: L'Esprit de Corps IV/Atlas Ocean Racing, Volvo 60, CAN

Skipper: Gilles Barbot, Luc DuBois, Simon DuBois, Maxime Grimard, Philippe Lefebvre, Karen Marshall, Tristan Peloquin, Charlotte Rousselot, André Roy, Tiberius Trifu     

By Ocean Navigator