RNLI action-cam video of the Dubois half tonner Alchemist sinking rapidly east of the Needles iduring this year's Round the Island Race

The Mudeford RNLI inshore lifeboat crew shot dramatic footage of the sinking of Alchemist during last Saturday’s JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race.

Alchemist, a 1977 Dubois-designed Half Tonner, was built in Cowes at the Lallows boatyard for lifetime owner Mark Wynter, who is Commodore of the Island Sailing Club, the organising club of the Round the Island Race. Wynter was not onboard during this year’s race, which saw two crew rescued from Alchemist as she sank rapidly in around 17 metres of water just east of the Needles in strong winds on 2 July.

It has been widely reported that Alchemist hit the wreck of the SS Varvassi, an infamous obstacle of the course created when a Greek cargo steamer ran aground in 1947. Despite attempts by the inshore lifeboat crew to pass a pump to the crew onboard Alchemist, and to attach a stern towline, the beautifully varnished wooden yacht was taking on water rapidly and sank in Scratchells Bay. Both crew were rescued safely by the RNLI RIB, and an RNLI crewman was recovered from the water immediately after.

Besides competing in almost every Round the Island Race since her launch, Alchemist was a familiar sight on the Solent for nearly 30 years, and a frequent competitor in the JOG (Junior Offshore Group) races across the Channel. Many key figures in Cowes sailing community enjoyed their first taste of yacht and offshore racing onboard the Half Tonner. Yacht designer John Corby posted via social media “Seeing it under construction at Lallows when I was about 15 was one of the things that made me want to build boats.”

Both the RNLI and independent lifeboats were also called to multiple incidents during the day, including a dismasting, rudder and steering failures, and an injured crew member who was transferred to land after two boats collided.