Roberto Varinelli confirmed missing from his boat at 04:00 this morning

This morning it was confirmed that Italian Mini sailor Roberto Varinelli is missing from his boat Metallurgica Calvi.

Concern was first felt yesterday when it was not possible for the chase boat Iris to raise Varinelli on the VHF. All the Mini Skippers have a call-in with the support boat twice a day, once at 8am and again at 8pm. However, the difficulty is that as the sailors are racing solo they may be busy changing sails or working on deck and miss their call in, so the alarm is not necessarily raised if they do not immediately respond. Moreover, Varinelli’s boat was still sailing on a correct course with the autopilot on even as it was discovered he was not on board.

Eventually Denis Hugues, the race director, requested that Varinelli’s boat be checked out by a helicopter from the Portugese resuce services. Who then reported that no contact could be made with Roberto by VHF, and that they could not see him on board.

A fishing vessel and cargo ship were requested to carry out a closer inspection as well as the race support vessel Iris. The Iris came close to the boat at 04:00 and sent out a RIB to investigate. Upon boarding the yacht they found all the skipper’s survival equipment intact including the liferaft, TPS survival suit and lifejacket.

Roberto Varinelli 48, a Dental Technician from Italy, competed in the last Mini Transat in ’99 on a series boat and finished 18th overall. Most of his sailing experience has been gained in the Mini class.

Varinelli’s family who are based in Italy are being kept fully informed. However, at this stage it is doubtful that he will be recovered alive.

Information was supplied by Ian McKay and the UK Mini Class Association.