How the crew of Monsun were rescued after their yacht hit an unknown object and sank

After hitting an unknown object during a storm on Friday, the 46ft ketch Monsun (pictured left) began making water, eventually forcing her six crew-members to abandon the boat, reported skipper Peter Flügge via satellite phone to a Daimler-Chrysler North Atlantic Challenge race officer. The crew had to huddle in a liferaft for several hours and wait for help. The sank south of the Newfoundland coast and the crew were later successfully rescued by a Hamburg freighter, Independent Action, from shipping company Peter Döhle, and are currently on their way to Philadelphia, USA. Apart from the skipper breaking a rib, all six crew are well and safe.

Monsun had started in the main fleet of 58 yachts field on Saturday 14 June from Newport, Rhode Island to take part in this transatlantic regatta of over 3,600 nautical miles to Cuxhaven and on to Hamburg.

The Mayday was first heard at 1337 local time, when there were southerly gales of up to Force 9, with 6-8m waves reported. British Army yacht Discoverer apparently received Monsun’s distress signal as part of the general HF safety roll call when she was more than 400 nautical miles away. The British crew, then in 2nd place overall behind US yacht Zaraffa, relayed the emergency call to Falmouth MRCC, who immediately contacted the nearest Rescue Coordination Centre in Norfolk, Virginia, and they coordinated the rescue activities. Two Canadian Hercules C-130 planes were scrambled, but three hours later the crewmembers’ families and the race organisers learned that the two women and four men had been safely rescued by the freighter.

Skipper Peter Flügge (49), sailing Monsun with his family and a friend from Flensburg, Germany, had made respectably progress with his sturdy 30-year old wooden vessel. While Monsun, with her IRC handicap factor of 0.876, was most likely the slowest yacht of the fleet, she was lying 38th out of the 58 competitors. According to her latest position report from 1205 UTC on Friday, the yacht was at 40 degrees 28.82′ North and 56 degree 53.85′ West and had sailed 677 nautical miles from the start. The ketch, built by the renowned yard Abeking & Rasmussen, had crossed the Atlantic four times.

“We are relieved that no-one was seriously hurt after all, although this beautiful wooden yacht is lost for good”, said Gunter Persiehl, President of Norddeutscher Regatta Vereins (NRV), the organizer of DCNAC to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Hamburgischer Verein Seefahrt (HVS).

The rescue effort, run by principal race officer Alan Green on the race organisers’ end, seems to have run perfectly smoothly. Many competitors immediately took part in searching for Monsun, among them Polaris from Rostock and Brigantia from Community of Seafarers, located in Lindau at Lake Constance, Germany.

Nearby, Oldenburg Atlantic 40 Salute, skippered by owner Sönke Forsthöfel, at 40ft length one of the smallest yachts in the fleet, had been in touch with Monsun and reported: “Following fog and calm winds, the wind was increasing from Force six this morning and the first really hard storm has hit us. The waves were impressing – what a sight when the ship is lifted up and down by the waves. Without any sails on we still make six knots over ground.

“We were in touch with Monsun. They had changed course two days ago to ask if they could help us when we were drifting. Very nice of them – good seamanship. Now we were just four miles apart and heading towards their last position. But we didn’t find anything. It’s really hard to see something small in these waves, with water everywhere.

“Meanwhile we had phone contact with competitor Polaris and the Rescue Centre in Bremen. The race organisers gave us a new position. We were heading there immediately but no luck. Then the Canadian aircraft arrived. A huge plane. They found the liferaft soon.”