Having crossed the Atlantic himself aboard a 30-ft Beneteau, ex-San Francisco sailor Jean Vaury brought to our attention reports on an abnormally violent storm 500 miles south of the Azores late last Wednesday night, with conditions so severe — 50-knot winds and seas up to 45 feet high — that at least four private yachts called for rescue. The response involved rescue agencies from several nations, including a US Coast Guard helicopter that was conducting exercises in the area, and at least six commercial vessels.
According to the news site Fleetmon.com and other sources, two crew off the American yacht Manca were rescued by the Greek-flagged, 718-ft tanker Archangelos Gabriel. A Portuguese Air Force helicopter rescued four crew from the Norwegian-flagged Swan 44 Kolibri, which had reportedly suffered a capsize plus two knockdowns that left her without use of her engine or communications gear. Two crew of the Dutch-flagged yacht Gandul were rescued by the Cafer Dede, a 551-ft container ship with Marshall Islands registry.
This video shows the rescue of Kolibri’s Norwegian crew by a Portuguese helicopter crew.
(Courtesy Portuguese Air Force.)
In addition, the nearly new French Lagoon 400 S2 yacht Reves Do, with a family of four aboard, reportedly caught fire, capsized and sank. The mother, Sophie, 37, and her nine-year-old son Hugo managed to get into the life raft and were eventually rescued by the 958-ft Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier Yuan Fu Star. Sometime in the morning the father, Claude, 39, and his six-year-old daughter were spotted floating in the water. They’d been floating in their lifejackets for seven hours. A survival kit was dropped down to them, and they were eventually rescued by the 318-ft hospital ship Esperanza del Mar, out of the Canary Islands. But, tragically, the daughter died shortly thereafter.
Rescue operations over a 34-hour period were coordinated by MRCC Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island, the largest isle in the Azores.