Second close call as crew are rescued from liferaft in the Channel after their yacht sank in a collision with a container ship

Five crew of a British yacht are recovering in Guernsey today after their yacht collided with a container ship and sank. They had been sheltering in a liferaft for five-and-a-half hours in thick fog when they were rescued by a high-speed ferry crew who miraculously spotted them on a direct collision course.

The crew of Mahkuna, a 43ft yacht on passage from northern France to the Hamble, were discovered yesterday evening at 1730 by the crew of the Poole-Guernsey Condor Ferries catamaran. They were in position 50° 10’N, 002° 09’W, some 24 miles south of Portland Bill. Visibility was 100m at the time, the winds calm at Force 1 or 2 and ENE variable.

We understand that the ferry captain picked up a radar target on a direct collision course. It appeared not to be moving and on slowing down a liferaft was sighted. The Condor Ferries fast catamaran has a service speed of 42 knots.

The yacht crew were subsequently picked up and taken to Guernsey.

The circumstances of the loss of their yacht were relayed by the ferry crew to Portland Coastguard. The yacht, Mahkuna, sank at about midday after a collision with a 200m container ship in position 50° 10.87’N, 001° 55.62’W, in the westbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme. The yacht was said to have taken 30 minutes to sink, but no Mayday or EPIRB signal was heard.

The French Coastguard immediately investigated and identified the ship concerned from her track at that position at that time. They communicated with the captain, who admitted that he had had a radar hit 2 cables off his starboard quarter at the time of the incident. The ship is on passage to Singapore and is continuing her voyage.

The investigation has since been handed over to the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch, which is trying to ascertain whether the yacht was hit during a collision, or capsized or swamped by the bow wave of the ship, which was steaming at 25 knots. They are also trying to discover why no distress message was broadcast by the yacht crew.