When an Australian yacht anchored in the Pacific atoll of Suwarrow was holed and in danger of sinking, quick action from fellow rally participants saved the boat, which is now under repair in American Samoa.
Eleven World ARC boats were anchored in the Suwarrow lagoon while on passage from Bora Bora to Tonga via Niue and the remote Cook Island atoll of Suwarrow, waiting for a well-forecast weather system to blow through and clear the rhumb line route to Niue. Just after dark one evening the wind shifted from south east to the north west, and increased to 25 knots within 10 minutes, creating breaking waves in the usually tranquil lagoon.
Dave and Magali Waterhouse from Sydney – participants in the World ARC rally - were onboard their catamaran Ensemble when the anchor dragged, pushing the boat quickly onto what had become a lee shore. A VHF Pan Pan call brought eleven fellow participants to the boat within minutes, and with the boat cut free from her snagged anchor and motored into deeper water, the damage was quickly assessed.
Buckets were swiftly put into action to clear the 30cm of water over the floorboards, but the loan of a high capacity bilge pump from another World ARC yacht really saved the boat. A crash-mat was placed over the outside of the hull, which reduced water ingress, and six hours later the main bailing teams reduced to a pump watch.
At first light the damage was seen to be two 30cm tears in the port hull, with several smaller punctures. The World ARC fleet included several divers, one boat having a compressor to refill tanks; using donated materials every hole was slowly plugged from inside and out.
The closest yard with facilities to haul out the 14m Fountaine Pajot catamaran was in American Samoa, but rather than have to face this 400NM passage alone, two rally friends volunteered to sail onboard with Dave and Magali, and another seven World ARC boats shadowed them on the passage to Pago Pago.
This could have been a very sad end to David and Magali’s honeymoon cruise home to Australia, but Ensemble will soon be repaired and underway to Fiji.
Because the World ARC boats had already been sailing together for six months, the sailors knew each other like family and were quick to offer help in many forms, reinforcing the benefits of sailing in a rally. Everyone involved in this incident should be proud that Ensemble was saved, and that no-one was hurt in what was fortunately an extremely rapidly resolved situation.
The Australian bowman will be a worthwhile addition to the America's Cup team.