The first new Gunboat 55, RAINMAKER, dismasted on 30 January 200 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras. She was 36 hours into a passage from the Gunboat yard in North Carolina to St Martin in the Caribbean when a vicious squall hit.

Gunboat 55 RAINMAKER dismasts

Gunboat 55 RAINMAKER dismasts

Gunboat founder Peter Johnstone broke the story on their Facebook page here, reporting that squalls had been in the 40-knot range for most of the day, but it was when “a full whiteout squall hit with winds at up to 70 knots” that the rig came down.

Onboard Gunboat 55 RAINMAKER was her owner, Pinterest investor Brian Cohen, his son and three professional crewmembers. The carbon mast and rigging was cut away without holing the boat and there were no reported injuries. The decision was taken to abandon the US$2.5m catamaran.

A US Coastguard helicopter crew arrived on scene at approximately 1700 local time and successfully hoisted all five crew from RAINMAKER. They were transported to Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo, North Carolina, and reportedly arrived in good condition.

Gunboat 55 RAINMAKER dismasts

Gunboat 55 RAINMAKER crew with US Coastguard rescuers

Peter Johnstone was able to elaborate more on the story over the phone. “They left in 30–35 knot winds with a number of squalls coming through. Another squall came which looked the same as the rest, but when it hit, it brought a wall of wind, water, zero visibility, and 70-knots or more, according to the crew.

“They cut away the rig – separated it in five minutes – quite an act of seamanship. And the boat was not damaged,” said Johnstone. The RAINMAKER crew then reportedly set off their EPIRB and were in direct communication with the US Coastguard. According to the coastguard report (here) the 350ft cargo ship Ocean Crescent diverted to respond to the Mayday but couldn’t manage to get alongside safely. Johnstone said that the Gunboat 55 had no manoeuvrability due to sheets around her props and was ‘beaten up’ when the ship tried to come alongside. The crew thought they might get sucked under the ship he says.

It was then that the decision was taken to ask for a helicopter evacuation. The Gunboat is reportedly fine and was left ready to be towed. As this is being posted, a trawler is en route from North Carolina to try and salvage the stricken cat, but conditions are currently still bad, with up to 80-knot winds. The Coastguard helicopter crew put a 30-day tracking beacon aboard, so Johnstone remains confident they will retrieve RAINMAKER and get her back to the yard – “and hopefully back on the water again for the owner’s summer.”

Gunboat 55 RAINMAKER dismasts

Gunboat 55 RAINMAKER dismasts


For more on the Gunboat 55 RAINMAKER:

See Gunboat’s video here:

According to a Forbes profile, Brian Cohen, 59, “keeps Rainmaker in a marina across the Hudson from Manhattan during the summer, where she serves as a floating conference centre for the entrepreneurs he meets as chairman of New York Angels, a consortium of 100 or so early-stage investors. “The power of this boat, its disruptive technology, the design interface–it’s all part of the entrepreneurial experience in New York,” he says.”

See Forbes video here:




Charles Doane, who was himself airlifted from a catamaran a year ago and wrote a feature about his experience in Yachting World, gives his thoughts on the rescue here