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British researcher's sailing trip from Cape Town ends in tragedy

BRITISH eco-activist Sara King in a post with her boyfriend, James Elsworth. King died in an accident when the catamaran her and her crew were sailing on capsized. Photo: Supplied

BRITISH eco-activist Sara King in a post with her boyfriend, James Elsworth. King died in an accident when the catamaran her and her crew were sailing on capsized. Photo: Supplied

Published Jul 6, 2019


British eco-activist Sara King could barely contain herself in a video clip she sent to her father Tim on May 29.

It opens with her below the 48-foot catamaran Danzig with Dax, a rescue dog.

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“Hey guys, we're off,” she says, eyes sparkling as she moves up to the deck where boyfriend James Elsworth, 33, and friend Jason Baker, 31, are piloting out of Simon's Town. “We’ve left the harbour!”

“Bon voyage, safe sailing Sara and James on your epic adventure xxx,” replies Tim, posting that he plans to see Sara somewhere en route to the South Sea Islands.

“Thanks for the send-off guys!” she Instagrams her friends. “Goodbye for ‘just now’ - love you all millions & see you all on the other side.”

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British eco-activist Sara King in a post with her father Tim. 

On Instagram, Jason announces they’ve “sold everything and bought a boat to surf the tropics. Join us along the way and help us keep going. Cape Town to Fiji”

On June 19, there’s a hint of impatience on Jason’s Instagram: “As it turns out a massive part of sailing is just saying f*** it and enjoying where you are. Geographically and mentally speaking. I’m an impatient guy at the best of times and it’s not easy. Especially when I have a barrage of “when you leaving bro?” messages. Well meaning or not it gets to you. We are still in East London and having a good time. Sorting out the admin and smashing beers. It’s not going according to plan and it’s f******* glorious. Will keep you updated as the next phase happens.”

The delay perhaps explains why on June 28, the trio set sail knowing stormy weather was brewing.

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“We have good breeze and full sails!” Instagrammed Jason. “East London thanks for having us. Onwards to Madagascar”

“Back out onto the open ocean we go,” Instagrammed Sara. “Next stop: Madagascar.”

Later that morning, the weather had turned cold and grey by the time Sara announced their trip was not all fun and games.

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“Our crew sets sail on our Research Vessel today from South Africa to South-West Madagascar where we start our next part of our scientific research on microplastics with Dr (Holly) Nel from the University of Birmingham. Follow us as we document and research the extent of marine litter along our entire passage.”

“Tracking you guys on FindShip!” replied her father. Then, three days later, Danzig stopped transmitting.

Hit by a severe storm, her hull was breached and it took on water. But help was nearby in the form of a Malta-registered container ship Raraka.

But only Jason, James and Dax survived.

Sara was rushed to the Raraka’s medical facility where medics administered CPR. How she drowned is still unknown. Tim King’s Facebook page is silent.

“Jason’s still too traumatised to talk,” said a family friend. “So is his dad.”

An emergency services source who helped transfer the survivors and Sara’s body from Raraka to Durban said she drowned before the ship’s lifeboat reached Danzig. 

“She was unconscious by the time they reached the cat. The survivors couldn’t explain it. They were just too emotional.”

It has emerged that Danzig had turned back to the Transkei coastline before disaster struck. 

“They knew the storm was approaching,” said the source. “But they didn’t expect it would be so severe. They then made an attempt to return to land but started taking on water. Had they succeeded Sara might be alive today.”

Weekend Argus

Related Topics:

City of Cape Town