Following the rescue of four crew members from Liquid Vortex on Tuesday, Hot Liquid managing director Jason Manning responds

Following the news release issued by the RNLI Dungeness Lifeboat Station in relation to the rescue of the crew of a Hot Liquid Sailing training vessel, Liquid Vortex, in the early hours of Tuesday January 3rd, and the subsequent publication of press reports about this story, the following statement has today been issued by Hot Liquid Sailing’s Managing Director, Jason Manning.

“On behalf of Hot Liquid Sailing and the skipper and crew of Liquid Vortex, I would first like to express our thanks and gratitude to the RNLI for their assistance.

“For the sake of absolute clarity and balanced reporting, I do however also wish to take this opportunity to outline all the facts of the situation that led to the rescue. Here follows relevant excerpts from the report issued from Hot Liquid Sailing to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB):

“Liquid Vortex and her crew set off from Shamrock Quay at 14:30 on Monday the 2nd of January bound for Ramsgate. The passage plan was to arrive at Ramsgate at approximately lunchtime on Tuesday the 3rd of January, weather conditions allowing, with possible safe havens of; Brighton, Eastbourne or Dover on route.

“Given the weather forecast prior to departure (West / Southwest Force 5/7 possibly Force 10 later), visiting one of these safe havens was becoming likely. The updated weather forecast at 19:30 remained the same.

“Liquid Vortex and her crew continued to sail along the South Coast during the day in winds of 20+ knots with gusts reaching Force 7 into the early hours of Tuesday morning. The sea state was increasing during the first few hours of Tuesday morning and whilst sailing past Dungeness the wind rapidly increased and sea state worsened. This caused four of the crew to suffer from sea sickness remaining below decks and no longer able to stand watch.

“Shortly after 04:00 Dover Coastguard announced an updated weather forecast that a Force 11 was imminent so an immediate decision was made by the skipper to head towards Dover for shelter. Soon after the wind started reaching Force 8 and the yacht was becoming more difficult to control so the decision was made to drop the headsail and motor towards Dover which at this point was less than 2 hours away.

“At 05:00 – 05:30, the skipper sent a Pan Pan message to Dover Coastguard as a safety precaution so that they were aware of his location and intentions. Dover Coastguard called the RNLI Lifeboat to escort the yacht into Dover.

“Shortly after the Lifeboat met Liquid Vortex she was hit by a large wave from astern. This caused the helmsman to fall against the wheel and subsequently bend the wheel which prevented further steering. The helmsman went below suffering an injured jaw and damaged ribs.

“Due to the lack of steering capability the Lifeboat secured a tow to Liquid Vortex with the intention of towing to Dover. Unfortunately, due to the yacht slewing with the given sea state and lack of helming capabilities, the tow line chaffed and snapped. A second tow line was rigged with the same outcome. The RNLI passed dedicated bridal lines to secure a third tow; unfortunately this tow failed by pulling a bow cleat from the yacht.

“The skipper along with a lifeboat crewman managed to straighten the wheel which allowed the skipper to helm and motor the yacht under her own power.

“A rescue helicopter was sent to evacuate the injured crewman. The decision was made whilst the helicopter was with yacht to also evacuate the three other crew who were feeling seasick. The four evacuated crew flew to the local hospital in Ramsgate and were subsequently released soon after. Fortunately the injured helmsman hadn’t suffered any serious injury but had a bruised jaw and ribs.

“The RNLI Lifeboat then secured a final tow to assist Liquid Vortex into Ramsgate Harbour due to deteriorating weather now reaching Force 10/11 where she berthed under her own power.”

Given the press coverage and some very negative comments on social media and in forums etc that surround this rescue, Jason Manning also feels it important to highlight that all six crew were paying individuals gaining further yachting experience and all were existing Hot Liquid sea school students and all had an RYA qualification; there were no novices on board.

The crew as a unit was extensively briefed in the use of heavy weather sails in the event that they may need them and practiced the ‘Man Overboard Procedure’ prior to leaving the Solent.

The Yacht:
A Beneteau First 40.7, one of the UK’s most popular offshore racing yachts and
a very capable yacht for the journey. Safety equipment onboard exceed MCA requirements for commercial vessels. As per usual, the skipper thoroughly went through the yacht’s inventory and checked all safety equipment shortly before departure.

The Skipper:
The skipper is a Commercially Endorsed RYA Yachtmaster Instructor (the highest level of qualification issued by the RYA).

The Weather:
The forecast for the area that they were sailing was expected to reach gale force winds “Later” which means 12 to 24 hours from the time of issue from the Met Office. This forecast remained in place during the voyage.

The yacht did not call the services of the RNLI. However as they were alongside when the steerage was temporarily lost due to the helmsman falling against the wheel, it was wise to take advantage of their services.

The yacht was able to continue under sail or power at all times during the voyage.
A temporary loss of steerage was easily and quickly rectified by simply bending the wheel back to its original position.

Excluding the bent wheel, all damage to the yacht was caused by the Lifeboat coming alongside to drop off a crewman.

The MAIB and RYA have been informed of the incident and continue their investigations with the full co-operation of Hot Liquid Sailing.


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