Scarlet Oyster is now safe in Sciara Harbour. What an amazing display of seamanship and perseverance shown by Ross, Andy, David, Alistair and the crew of Scarlet Oyster. To lose your rudder in a force nine gale, secure your boat and then sail into the lee of a tiny Mediterranean Island using a drogue and sailing techniques, and to top it all off anchor under sail with no rudder deserves a particular mention. They haven’t won a Rolex but I think they deserve a medal!
Scarlet herself needs a commendation. She is a twenty seven year old yacht weighing in at thirteen and half tons and her high profile long keel meant that she was very well behaved throughout initially sailing in a steady straight line under hove to sail configuration with ease.
The initial plan was to sail back to Sicily under this configuration but as the sea state worsened they decided to stream the drogue and turn the yacht downwind, using the sails and the drogue for some steerage as they pointed towards Malta.
After one of the drogue lines snapped the decision was made to try sailing towards the shelter of the tiny Mediterranean Island of Pantelleria and this involved some strategic thinking to work out how many gybes and manoeuvres it would need to get there with such limited steering capability.
Late last night Scarlet arrived at the east side of Pantelleria and tied up behind an anchored fishing boat where a fellow Italian Rolex Middle Sea Race competitor was also hiding from the storm. Bliss! The crew prepared to get some rest, but just as they were about to drop off, the fishing boat they were secured to decided to put to sea! This meant that the already exhausted and seasick crew were tasked with hoisting the sails again and attempting the difficult manoeuvre of anchoring Scarlet under sail with no maneuverability. Eventually in the pitch darkness they managed it and could finally get some rest.
The Italians generously lent Ross their custom made emergency rudder which was strapped to a pole and used to wield out the back of the yacht to provide steerage. This enabled the yacht to get to the harbour of Sciara this morning where Ross is now desperately trying to make repairs and sort out a solution to get the yacht back to Malta.
If anyone can do it, this man can – Ross Appleby is one of the most determined and resourceful skippers we know!
“I doubt that we could have done what we did on a modern build lighter race boat” says Andy Middleton “The weather conditions out there were pretty horrendous and the waves towered above us up to about eight to twelve metres with breaking seas and 48 knots of wind across the deck so we had a bit on but the yacht was built to last and we managed to get her to safety”