Cape Town - A harrowing ordeal at sea brought an adventurous voyage from Durban to Cape Town to an abrupt end for a group of European sailors after their yacht’s boom broke, injuring a crewman, in a near gale off the notorious Transkei coast, near Coffee Bay.
Ryan Lotter, skipper of the yacht Doughty, said the weather forecast had indicated winds of 25 knots when they left Durban for Cape Town at the weekend.
But when they reached the vicinity of Coffee Bay, inshore of the mighty Agulhas Current, the wind had blown up to between 62 and 65 knots, according to National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) spokesman Craig Lambinon.
On Monday, at about midday, as Lotter’s five-person crew of Germans, Russians and a Belgian fought with the rigging and the sails and the boat negotiated large seas, the fierce wind and the strain on the mainsail caused the yacht’s boom to break, Lambinon said.
The boom, a main horizontal spar which is attached to the lower end of the mast to hold and maintain the foot of the mainsail, crashed down on to the deck, with a section landing on the hand of German sailor Eric Manshoven, 56.
With his yacht crippled and his crewman in severe pain, Lotter alerted maritime authorities by radio and NSRI Port St Johns scrambled a volunteer sea rescue crew to help the Doughty.
Wisely, Lotter turned his yacht around and downwind, aiming for the shelter of Port Edward.
The NSRI then scrambled its Port Edward duty crew, who waited for the stricken yacht to move closer.
The crew launched their boat Wild Coast Sun Rescuer at 1.15pm and met the yacht 25km south of Port Edward in more sheltered waters 1km off the Msikaba River Mouth, where the swell had dropped to 5m and the wind to 25 knots.
The rescue crew found Manshoven in a stable condition, his left hand bandaged after treatment administered by crew members, Lambinon said.
They transferred him and his Russian wife to the rescue launch and took them to Port Edward, where an ambulance waited.
Meanwhile, Lotter and the remaining three crew carried on back to Durban, sailing under a jury rig and with engine power.
When the rescuers reached Port Edward with their patient, a Netcare 911 ambulance was called.
But the patient, in a stable condition, asked to be taken to a hospital in uMhlanga in Durban and an NSRI sea rescue vehicle was called to transport him and his wife there so he could get for further treatment, Lambinon said.
Doughty was expected to reach Durban later this week, for repairs and to wait for the injured Manshoven to recover.