RESCUE AT SEA – Cheminées Poujoulat, who was making the delivery back from the Transat Jacques Vabre, triggered his beacon in the evening yesterday, when he was 180 miles from Brest, its home port. Therefore, rescue were organized. Bernard Stamm and Damien Guillou, unharmed, are currently onboard a cargo ship en route to Rotterdam where he is expected tomorrow night. The Swiss skipper delivers his first explanations .
© Thierry Martinez / Sea and Co
Bernard, can you tell us about the accident? How did it happened?
“Damien and I were 200 miles from the tip of Cornwall and 180 nautical Brest . We were a little ahead of the front, downwind. There were between 43 and 45 knots winds established, but it was manageable. We were prepared for this gale. We were under storm jib , with four reefs in the mainsail. Clearly, we really had the handbrake on, but coming off a large wave, the boat broke in two. The mast did not fall immediately. We quickly closed all boat bulkheads and the spar fell from the rear. Very quickly, we asked for help. ”
“We are prepared to leave the boat. The sea was huge so we tried to assess the risk of damage to the boat. Damien , we tried to separate the mast from the boat but we did not succeed. It was really too dangerous. However, we managed to make a dive in the water to stop the mast hitting against the hull. In the aftermath, inside, we met on survival equipment . Clearly, we were not sure how long the boat would float. ”
How was the rescue operation ?
“A Falcon 50 based on the basis of naval aviation Hyères arrived in the area around 23:30 after refueling in Bordeaux. He coordinated the rescue before being relayed by a maritime patrol aircraft around 6am. Meanwhile, a helicopter hoisted a British Sea King rescue type was attempted. He has asked us to put water BIB ( liferaft ) so that a diver can pick us up. That’s what we did but Damien and I have never managed to get away from the boat. It was too dangerous to enter our broken bow. Finally, we had to reboard Chimneys Poujoulat leaving the raft.
What happened next?
” The rescuers told us to swim to try to pick us up directly from the water. Unfortunately, that did not work either. Even worse , because I had a lot of trouble getting back on the boat. After that, as we no longer had access to the sail locker which stored our second BIB , five were dropped from the plane, but all have fallen too far from us . Then the cargo ship arrived and maneuvered to get our side. A rope was thrown at us but the operation failed.
The crew threw us a new rope while we were along the back half of the cargo ship, standing on the stern , but we managed to catch it. He then dropped us a line. Damien swam next to the cargo with a ring buoy in which he could get, he was able to catch ring. There seas were big and Chimneys Poujoulat, at that time , was almost entirely under water . There was only one small part of the stern sticking to the surface and the bow was hanging after . This is a really hard picture for me. ”
Now safely aboard the freighter MV Star Isfjord , you route to Rotterdam?
“Yes . The Filipino crew that brought us relief showing an incredible mastery currently transiting to the Netherlands, where we should arrive tomorrow evening. I want to thank as well as all the men who participated in this major operation . Thank you from my heart . “