With the record number of entries for the 50th Transpac, one could expect a decent amount of attrition before the race starts in early July. No one, however, would have expected one of the Southern Hemisphere’s best-known and most-traveled yachts to be lost at sea en route to the start, but that’s exactly what happened to Brian Petersen’s Auckland, New Zealand-based Elliott 50 Ran Tan II. Having just sailed from Auckland to Tahiti with a crew of three, the team swapped out a few crew for fresh bodies before embarking on a planned three-week voyage from Tahiti to Los Angeles. On May 27, the venerable 50-ft canting-keeler — a veteran of no fewer than three Melbourne to Osaka races — crossed the equator and entered the Northern Hemisphere.
Three days later, around the position of 8°N 127°W, the crew activated their EPIRB and made a distress call on their HF radio to alert the relevant authorities that the boat was suffering from “keel issues.” Shortly afterward, New Zealand yachting media outlet Live Sail Die began covering the story. Though conditions at the scene were said to be fairly mild, a 29-ft sailing yacht named Irish Eyes also dismasted around 100 miles from Ran Tan II. Ran Tan II’s Facebook page related that the crew was “so impressed and thankful for the work that the Wellington Rescue Centre and the US Coastguard in Honolulu have put in on behalf of our team of three sailors out here… They may be a long way from the nearest land but there are an amazing number of ships, yachts, boats, tugs, etc. out there also. US Coastguard will alert us when they are able to contact a suitable vessel to rendezvous with Ran Tan… The boys have got the fridge ready to go, so at least they’ll have cold beers in the liferaft while they wait.”
The following morning, the team relayed that “At 0530 this morning the keel let go completely and disappeared into the deep blue Paciﬁc Ocean. Ran Tan is still upright and stable in the slight seas. Liferaft and dinghy launched. Boys just had a cold beer, crackers and cheese. Waiting patiently for their next ride, a 1,000-ton Mexican tuna boat out of Ensenada. They are about four hours away. Thank you so much for all the messages of support and encouragement. Unfortunately it looks like a sad end to a very fine yacht.”
Before noon on May 31 (New Zealand time), the team again relayed via Facebook that all three crew were safely aboard the Mexican fishing boat Azteca 5 and were maintaining their good Kiwi spirits, although they were almost surely quite shaken by the experience. The boat was said to have been abandoned, though we cannot at this time conﬁrm if it was scuttled or left to drift, or whether there are any plans to salvage the vessel. Having been on a racing yacht that has sustained a complete keel failure, even reading of this experience rattled this writer. Our most sincere thoughts and condolences go out to our beloved Kiwi yachting brethren. But the crew are safe and sound, and that is truly the most important thing. For more on this developing story, and (in due time) reactions from owner Brian Petersen, follow Live Sail Die’s excellent coverage of this story and all things New Zealand yachting.
For those keeping score, there are now 98 yachts entered in this year’s Transpac. We will miss #99.
The merchant vessel Tomar rescued two sailors from the California-based 29-ft sailing vessel Irish Eyes 1,840 miles southeast of Hilo yesterday. Irish Eyes was en route to Tahiti.