Nine, including baby, survive with damaged yacht rudder in heavy sea conditions off St Francis Bay

APRIL 6, 2016

At approximately 19h05, Tuesday, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) were alerted to the yacht Rocket, with nine people onboard - four females and five males, one being a baby, sailing from Cape Town to Durban, reporting a damaged rudder in heavy sea conditions off-shore of Eerste River, between Plettenberg Bay and Oyster Bay, on the Eastern Cape coastline and fearing that the damaged rudder could hole the boat if it broke free.

"The rudder was loose in her housing and every movement threatened structural damage to the hull," described NSRI spokesperson, Craig Lambinon.

"The Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) placed NSRI Port Elizabeth, NSRI St Francis Bay and NSRI Oyster Bay on alert and NSRI Plettenberg Bay were requested to respond to stand-by on the shore in the vicinity and together with NSRI Oyster Bay to prepare to assist the yacht if it became necessary."

Lambinon said that the MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) were requested to dispatch an all ships alert and at 19h25 Telkom Maritime Radio Services broadcast an Pan Pan safety radio message for vessels in the area to be on alert.

"Not declaring an emergency the yacht skipper reported all of the crew onboard to be safe but requesting Maritime Rescue Authorities to be on alert fearful that the yacht could sustain catastrophic damage if the damaged rudder broke off or if it caused a hole in the hull from the loose movement and they were instructed to head at their safest possible cautionary speed towards sheltered waters to drop anchor while sea rescue craft stood by to respond if an emergency was declared."

As a precautionary measure MRCC placed the SA Air Force (SAAF) on alert and a SAAF 15 Squadron, Charlie Flight helicopter and an NSRI ASR team were put on high alert.

"During the night, NSRI Plettenberg Bay were released to return to base and NSRI Jeffreys Bay were placed on alert to respond if it became necessary," said Lambinon.

"Up to 4 to 5 meter swells were being experienced and the yacht was able to sail past Oyster Bay, reaching St Francis Bay by early morning and they have safely put to anchor outside of the St Francis Bay Port to await high tide early this afternoon to get into Port.

"All crew onboard are safe."

NSRI St Francis Bay are now on alert and will assist them into Port at high tide.

The yacht crew have abandoned plans to sail to Durban for the 2016 Vasco (Vasco Da Gama Ocean Race) and the yacht will stay in St Francis Bay for extensive repairs.