Seven crew aboard Liquid Vortex, a Beneteau 40.7 were rescued by today in severe weather in the English Channel. Matthew Sheahan reports

As the storm that battered the British Isles raged this morning, the crew of ‘Liquid Vortex’, a Beneteau 40.7, issued a Mayday at around 0530 reporting a steering failure and other difficulties. The alarm was raised as the boat passed Dungeness Point.

The boat and her seven crew are understood to have left Hamble on Tuesday afternoon (Jan 2) for the London Boat Show at Excel before running into difficulties early this morning. The Met Office shipping forecast for sea areas Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland, Plymouth in place at the time of the boat’s departure was;

‘Wind west to southwest force 5 to 7, increasing gale 8 to storm 10 later. Moderate or rough, occasionally very rough or high. Squalls in showers, rain later. Good occasionally poor.’

According to the RNLI, shortly after the distress call was made, Dungeness RNLI’s Mersey class lifeboat, Pride and Spirit, was launched and arrived to find the training boat floundering after her engine had failed.

“It was pretty horrendous out there by all accounts,” said Judith Richardson, volunteer press officer for Dungeness RNLI.

“Our crew got up alongside ‘Liquid Vortex’ and our duty coxswain, Mark Richardson, made three attempts to transfer a lifeboat crew member across to them. Their aim was to attach a tow line, but the conditions were just too rough and dangerous to make the transfer. It was blowing Storm Force 11 at the time, so one can only imagine how frightened those onboard the training vessel were.”

“The crew reported that, of seven people aboard ‘Liquid Vortex’, only one was in a fit state to assist with the transfer – the remainder were injured or suffering severe seasickness. Our crew eventually managed to transfer a crew member across and attach a tow line, then began towing the vessel to Dover. However, because of the severity of the weather conditions, the tow line broke three times.”

Dungeness crew felt that it was too dangerous to attempt to tow into Dover harbour by themselves and requested assistance from Dover RNLI lifeboat at around 8am. Dover launched their Severn class lifeboat, City of London II, to help with the operation.

Neither lifeboat were allowed into Dover harbour via the western entrance, because Dover Port Control had closed it due to the weather.

‘In conjunction with port control, crews decided it was too difficult to get into the eastern entrance because the sea was so rough. Instead they decided to escort the vessel round to The Downs, nearer Ramsgate,” continued Richardson.

In the meantime, RAF Rescue helicopter 125 was dispatched to the scene. A paramedic was winched down onto ‘Liquid Vortex’ and airlifted four of her crew for further medical assistance. The remaining three crew aboard the vessel were towed into Ramsgate where a medical team was waiting to provide assistance.

Shortly after the incident Yachting World contacted Hot Liquid Sailing but was told that no one was currently available to comment.

According to the company’s web site a cruise from Southampton to London was advertised and due to take place on 2-5th January. The £225 per person trip was described as;

‘Departing from Southampton we sail up the English Channel, through the Dover Straits and then round to the Thames. Likely stops include Brighton and Ramsgate. This is a unique opportunity to sail through the Thames Barrier and up to Tower Bridge arriving at St. Catherine’s Docks. The approximate distance is 250 miles. You join the boat at 0930 on Monday 2nd January and are likely to arrive into London on the afternoon of Thursday the 5th.’

At this stage it is not known whether Liquid Vortex was being used for this trip. It is also not known whether those rescued had paid for the passage or whether a professional delivery crew was aboard.

Liquid Vortex and her operators, Hot Liquid Sailing, were the subject of a recent accident report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) following an incident in May 2011 when a female member of crew was airlifted from the boat after sustaining serious injuries during the RORC’s Myth of Malham race.

On January 17 2011 Hot Liquid were involved in another incident when the Bavaria 36, Liquid Fusion, ran into trouble during a passage from the London Boat Show to Southampton when the boat ran aground on North Sand Head on the Goodwin Sands in reported force 7 winds. On this occasion the five man crew was winched to safety by an RNLI rescue helicopter. The boat sunk later the same evening.