GSC – Louis Robein assisted by Argentinian Navy

By Marco Nannini  / Global Solo Challenge
Yesterday Louis Robein arrived safely in Ushuaia after his unfortunate ordeal, running aground in Bahia Aguirre, in the southeastern peninsula of Mitre in the Tierra del Fuego. He was very fatigued when the incident happened, after his incredible voyage that saw him sailing with no autopilot for over three weeks in the open Pacific before successfully rounding Cape Horn on April 5th.

Louis intended to reach Ushuaia for repairs after rounding the Cape. Heavy weather affecting the area, with northwesterly winds of up to 60 knots made it impossible to immediately motor up the Beagle Channel and Louis patiently spent the evening of the 5th until the morning of the 6th hove-to, drifting slowly with sails on opposite tacks, in the shelter of the Tierra del Fuego and the archipelago de the Islas de Hornos.

By midday on the 6th the wind was still blowing hard but had decreased enough for him to start making way towards the coast of the Tierra del Fuego before heading west up the channel to Ushuaia. When steering in the cockpit, and with no autopilot Louis was unable to easily and quickly plot his position on the paper charts as the wind would immediately blow the boat off course. The sun was setting and as the profile of the headlands started to fade but despite the approaching darkness he was confident he was motoring up the Beagle Channel.

Unfortunately, fatigue, deception brought by the waning light of day and a dead reckoning misjudgment resulted in Louis motoring into the Bahia Aguirre. This area on the Mitre peninsula is uninhabited and is a protected natural reserve with no electricity or shore lights of any kind. The San Gonzalo lighthouse on the western entrance of the bay and the Elizalde light to the East used to mark this well protected bay which can be used to seek shelter. Neither lights are in function nowadays leaving Louis to navigate a dark coast with no easy reference points.

I woke up at night, something that has happened frequently during the entire Global Solo Challenge when skippers were sailing under difficult circumstances, and saw him sailing into the bay and thought he’d drop anchor and get some rest or even attempt repairs to his autopilot before proceeding to Ushuaia.

With the wind coming from shore the water was perfectly flat and the bay pitch black as the next day marked a new moon. Before Louis could realise the error he ran aground on the sandy bottom of the bay. All efforts to free the boat were unsuccessful and whilst trying to move the boat around with the engine the emergency tiller bar broke.

I woke up again a few hours later before sunrise and his updated position on the tracker was too close to shore for comfort and unfortunately an email from Louis confirmed he had run aground and requested assistance. His message said he had called the French coast guard at Cross Griz Nez asking them to liaise with local rescue authorities to send help.

As in other incidents, I made myself available for any assistance I can provide remotely. I spoke to MRCC Argentina and forwarded Louis’ safety dossier and details of the boat, then spoke to Cross Griz Nez and remained on standby whilst the incident was being dealt with the Argentinian Navy who are the National Maritime, River, and Lake Search and Rescue Authority in Argentina.

The official account published on the Ministry of Defense website reports that:

“The case was taken over by the coordinating center (MRCC) Ushuaia, which dispatched the fast boat ARA “Indómita”. The Navy vessel sailed from the military pier of the Naval Base Ushuaia at 4:20 a.m., with a doctor and salvage divers on board.

Furthermore, the Argentine Navy established contact through satellite phone with the sailboat’s only crew member, Louis Robein of French nationality, ensuring his good health and indicating the measures taken.

At the same time, it contacted the nearest ship, “Moonrise G” under the Panamanian flag, which headed to the area and remained in the safe waters of the bay in radio contact with the crew member; waiting for the arrival of the Navy personnel with smaller boats and salvage divers, capable of assisting him in the stranding position of his vessel.

From the early hours and throughout the day, MRCC Ushuaia maintained contact with the Gris-Nez France Search and Rescue Coordination Center, as well as with the authorities of the French Consulate in Argentina and the honorary consul of France in Ushuaia, Mario Guillermo Eiriz.

Upon the arrival of the fast boat ARA “Indómita” to the location, prevailing winds in the area exceeding 50 knots, prevented the safe nautical operation of smaller boats. After establishing radio communication with the sailboat’s crew member, the unit remained navigating nearby waiting for better conditions…


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