Four sailors miraculously survived for 12 hours in the water when Antares of Ashton the 32ft Iroquois MkIIA catamaran they were sailing capsized in the Solent
Four sailors miraculously survived for 12 hours in the water when Antares of Ashton the 32ft Iroquois MkIIA catamaran they were sailing capsized in the Solent on Saturday evening. The crew, two women and two men on board from southern Ireland, including Thomas Spratt, the skipper who’d only just purchased the boat from Alan Holmes in Gosport, were on their way to Lymington when disaster struck at 2030 on Saturday evening.
According to Holmes who spoke to the skipper on Sunday, it was blowing 20-25kts when disaster struck. They were double reefed and beating at 6kts. Holmes commented: “Under normal circumstances the boat would not be at all hard pressed in that situation. It is my belief that they were hit by the wash from one of the fast cats that run from Cowes to Soton. When I mentioned this to them, they remembered being crossed astern by one of the cats. Under those conditions, the wash moving west would have been held up by the opposing wind and, moving into the shallower water off Lepe, could have become very steep. The cat being hit by this may well have tripped over her lee board even though it wasn’t fully down.”
Despite Willie Crowie who was clipped on at the time of the capsize and had a bit of a struggle to free himself, the rest of the crew, including Spratt (50 years old), Claire Tohey and Toni O’Leary (both 32 years old), were able clear themselves as the boat went over and hang on to the inverted hulls and wait for help to arrive.
However, because the boat with her fairly low freeboard had drifted 18 miles and was lying just 300 yards from the shore off Lepe Beach with her mast stuck in the mud, away from the busy shipping lanes she was unnoticed and the crew were left wallowing in freezing conditions throughout the night. The rescue took place after a women walking her dog along the shore reported cries of help from the boat at 0715 on Sunday.
“Thankfully all the crew were experienced sailors.” added Hannon, “Both women are RYA yachtmasters and because of this they carried out the correct safety procedure including ensuring all crewmembers stayed with the boat.”
All four crew members were transferred to Southampton General Hospital suffering with mild hypothermia and were released yesterday. Thomas Spratt commented: “We followed safety procedures and had correct foul weather gear with life jackets. The crew were there to support each other and we kept our spirits up during the night. Our preparations in advance and safety equipment is what physically got us through.”
The boat was towed back to Calshot where she is currently lying on a mooring. Interestingly, the same boat is believed to have capsized off the Isle of Man on 23 July 1977.