Ross Hobson's 40ft catamaran collides with a submerged object after JOG win

The 40 foot catamaran Fingers Crossed having returned from competing in the JOG Schroder, Cowes to Guernsey race during the August bank holiday, was on her way north to Northumberland for the winter when disaster struck. Skipper Ross Hobson, was taking the boat to Brighton in order to pick up extra crew for the 500 mile trip home. With a brisk SE wind blowing he had tacked down the eastern Solent and out into the English Channel before tacking for a fast reach into Brighton.

At approximately 1815 disaster struck. Ross was on the port (leeward) hull eating dinner when the boat crashed into something in the water. Initially, it looked as if the big catamaran had just come off a wave awkwardly, then instrument alarms sounded. The boat swung up into the wind and it was obvious that the starboard hull was low in the water and seas were beginning to break over her. A rapid inspection below revealed the cause. An large hole had been torn in the hull, the starboard dagger board, its box housing and some 6 feet of hull had been torn away, flooding the accommodation area of the starboard hull.

With the batteries underwater, the emergency hand held VHF radio having been lost in the collision, and the boat settling further down by the starboard hull than expected (The boat has 5 watertight buoyancy compartments and watertight bulkheads in each hull to maintain floatation in case of being holed. Later inspection revealed that a further 3 areas of the hull had been holed). The craft was now looking as if she may capsize at any minute. Ross put out a Mayday distress call which was immediately picked up by Solent Coastguard and a passing ship the ‘Orange Blossom’.

The Coastguard launched their helicopter and also requested launch of the Selsey Lifeboat. With the sails making the likelihood of capsize more real, they were kept aloft to aid visual contact until the ‘Orange Blossom’ reported that she had the stricken vessel in sight. They were then lowered and the small storm jib hoisted and backed, with the tiller lashed to hold the wallowing craft in a better position. Ross also grabbed some of his possessions, launched the boats orange dinghy and loaded it with the boats flares and EPIRB just in case he had to abandon the boat in a hurry.

The Coastguard helicopter was soon overhead and Ross was airlifted off to safety. The whole operation being recorded by a TV crew on board the aircraft. Having been checked out he was OK, Ross was dropped onto Selsey Lifeboat to aid possible recovery. However, night was falling when the boat was located and it was felt too dangerous to place a man onboard the catamaran to take her in tow. She was then abandoned to the seas.

The following day ‘Fingers Crossed’ was reported to have capsized and a slow difficult salvage operation took place by Offshore Marine Services. The craft eventually being landed at the boatyard at Bembrige, Isle of Wight, some 2 days later.

The damage is extensive with holes in all but 2 of the starboard hull buoyancy chambers and the loss of a lot of equipment. But, she is now undergoing survey and will hopefully be repaired and ready to sail next season – Fingers Crossed.

Ross Hobson and Ronin Sailing would like to thank Solent Coastguard, the aircrew of Indigo Juliet, Selsey Lifeboat, the Orange Blossom for their aid during the rescue. Also thanks to Martin Woodward of Offshore Marine Services for the recovery of the craft.