Ocean Racing Club of Victoria
Steb Fisher

All sailors return to safety in Port Fairy race.

Storm rescue highlights skill of skippers and crews in ORCV races.

This morning all crew are safe as members of the scattered racing fleet limped into safe harbours.

The boats in the fleet were hammered by big confused seas whipped up by storm force winds gusting up to 70 knots at times. Six crew members from Inception were forced to abandon ship and were rescued from the water by another race competitor Trybooking.com

Trybooking.com coming up the Moyne River, Port Fairy to the cheers of the crowds lining the river

During the night Inception was pounded by big seas and took on water and sunk. At the time they were approximately 7 miles off the coast and roughly half way between Cape Otway and Warnambool.  Reports say the life raft was ripped from its deck fasteners by huge seas and washed overboard, earlier in the race, forcing the six crew to abandon ship and leap into the chilly water.  The boat’s Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and the crew's Personal Locator Beacons (PLB’s) were activated and the GPS distress signal was quickly picked up by Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) in Canberra who alerted the ORCV’s Incident Response Team.  Race Director, Ray Shaw headed the Incident Response Team and coordinated the local search and rescue.   As part of the response team, Ray was supported by Peter Clancy, from Ocean Racing Melbourne.  Peter is the resident radio operator for all ORCV races and runs the regular radio scheds with all the boats in the fleet.  He was in constant contact with all competitors during the race posting updates and logging their positions and ETA’s.

In dangerous conditions communications with all boats and shore support crews is crucial. The ORCV has implemented a number of communication advances that have improved safety in this sport. Through the use of the dedicated yacht tracker system on the ORCV website, the ORCV’s Incident Response Team was able to quickly identify Trybooking.com as the closest boat nearby the disabled yacht.  They also used an extensive log of crew and boat details to contact the next of kin directly by phone and keep them informed, by SMS updates and website reporting, throughout the race.

By using continually updating position reports of the Inception crew's PLB signals, received via AMSA in Canberra, Peter Clancy was able to direct Trybooking.com via HF radio to the position of the crew in the water.  This is no mean feat in dark and stormy conditions and big confused seas that easily obscures detection of smaller objects in the water.  Tribooking.com then started a grid search based on the PLB locations and was able to retrieve the crew.

This successful rescue was a testament to the comprehensive training and education programs set by the ORCV and has always been a hallmark of all ORCV activities. To enter a race all crews and boats must have attained mandatory levels of safety accreditation and training.  The actions of the crew of Inception during their time in the water significantly improved their chances of survival.  All crew were wearing their Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) and safety harnesses and once in the water they managed to clip themselves together using the tether lines on their harnesses. Once banded together as a human raft they supported each other and held their strobe lights above their heads to make themselves more visible to the rescue helicopter and the rescue vessel Trybooking.com.

In a superb display of seamanship and heroism the four crew on board Trybooking.com plucked the six Inception crew members from the cold waters and gave them warm clothes and drinks then resumed their progress to Port Fairy, at times making only one knot of headway in still treacherous seas.

Race heros - the crew of Trybooking.com: L to R,  Peter Fetch, Ross Fisher, Grant Dunoon (Skipper) and Kim Walker

The crew of Trybooking.com must be commended for their valiant display of seamanship and camaraderie in the rescue of the Inception crew.  They themselves were also feeling weary having already spent more than four hours battling 5 to 6 meter seas in exceptional weather conditions. Trybooking.com were also in survival mode and slowly inching their way towards the closest safe harbor of Port Fairy in sustained blasts of 40 to 50 knot winds with gusts up to 70 knots at times.  The Trybooking.com crew were wet and cold and becoming fatigued as they fought to balance the boat in the very big seas and shelter from the constant spray of green water lashing the decks.

Trybooking.com with all sailors safely onboard, were escorted into Port Fairy river around 10.30am this morning by the Port Fairy Rescue boat. A fleet of ambulances were waiting to examine the Inception crew.  All crew looked remarkably well, given their ordeal.  One crew member was reported to be suffering from mild hyperthermia. As a precaution all Inception crew were admitted to Warrnambool hospital for a routine observation.  All crew were clearly very pleased to be in Port Fairy and are being well cared for by the Commodore and members of the Port Fairy Yacht Club.

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3 Aquatic Drive, Albert Park VIC 3206 Ph. 0493 102 744 E. orcv@orcv.org.au