Monday, December 29, 2008

Nico Budel issues a MAYDAY call...

by Oliver Dewar and Brian Hancock

Nico Budel, racing Leg 2 of the Portimão Global Ocean Race aboard his Open 40 Hayai, has sustained irreparable damage to the keel of his yacht and has issued a MAYDAY call seeking immediate assistance. The 69 year old veteran of numerous offshore races is one of two solo sailors participating in the race and is currently deep in the Southern Ocean. His position at the time of the distress call was 240 nautical miles NNE of the Crozet Islands, a bleak archipelago deep in the Southern Ocean’s Roaring Forties inhabited by a handful of scientists in a research station. The MAYDAY and subsequent activation of his EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radiobeacon) has launched a full rescue operation with two ships and a fellow competitor diverting to his location to affect a rescue.

“Since early this morning the situation has developed rapidly from some concerns about the keel to a full blown rescue operation,” said Race Director Josh Hall. “Nico is in no immediate danger but it’s clear that his yacht will not survive the approaching gale force winds without further damaging the keel and it is in danger of capsizing. Hayai is the only canting keel boat in our fleet but, more importantly, I believe that the keel has hit something for this to happen. We will not rest easy until Nico is safely aboard another vessel and out of this dangerous situation."
The nearest competitor in the race capable of offering assistance is the highly-experienced Belgian solo sailor, Michel Kleinjans on his Open 40 yacht, Roaring Forty. At the time Kleinjans was just under 500 miles to the east of Budel. At the request of Hall, Kleinjans responded immediately by turning his boat around, sailing into the teeth of an approaching low pressure system. “It’s normal in this kind of situation for a fellow competitor to be diverted to lend assistance,” Hall continued. “Michel did not hesitate when asked and we are grateful to him for his courage.”

The lead torpedo-shaped keel bulb is twisted at a 20 degree angle to the carbon fibre keel fin and the risk of the bulb separating from the keel fin and the yacht inverting in the desolate Southern Ocean is now a stark possibility. Through contact between Alan Green of the Portimão Global Ocean Race and the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC Reunion), two commercial ships have diverted from their original headings and are now steaming towards the damaged yacht. Kleinjans aboard Roaring Forty, is making steady but slow progress toward the stricken yacht. Strong headwinds are hampering his speed but despite the grim conditions the Belgium sailor is determined to help his long-time friend. Read full report...