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Rudder loss on ARC Racing Yacht

Crew safely evacuated – yacht abandoned pending salvage

The ARC yacht Auliana II has been abandoned and the crew evacuated following the loss of the yacht’s rudder in the early hours of Monday morning.

Skipper Christian Potthoff-Sewing, from Bielefeld in Germany and his seven crew members were safely ashore in Arguineguin, Gran Canaria, late yesterday evening (23/11/2009) some 36 hours after taking the start of ARC 2009 in the IRC Racing Division.

At around 04:00 on Monday 23/11/2009 the yacht lost its rudder some 70 nautical miles southwest of Gran Canaria. The exact cause of the breakage is unknown, though the on-watch crew doesn’t think that the yacht struck any debris in the water.

Unable to make steerage back toward Gran Canaria, the skipper contacted MRCC Las Palmas at 0600 on Monday, requesting assistance with a tow. At around noon, a lifeboat from the Spanish Maritime Rescue Service (Salvamento Maritima) was on station and the tow was soon underway. However, owing to the increasing wind strength (between 20 and 28 knots) and direction of the swell, the towing line repeatedly pulled deck cleats off the lightweight racing yacht – Auliana II is a one-off JV53.

With the daylight fading, the entire crew was evacuated from the yacht as a safety measure, though attempts to tow the yacht continued. The salvage crew was unable to secure a line to the deck-stepped mast, and after several more frustrating attempts, the decision was made to abandon the yacht and return the crew ashore.

The yacht is fitted with a Yellowbrick Iridium satellite tracker and its position is being monitored by MRCC Tenerife, as attempts continue to salvage the yacht.

Meanwhile, the all-German crew received a warm welcome as they stepped ashore in Gran Canaria, where they arrived looking tired, but in good spirits. They were given hot tea and food and offered a change of clothes and taken to a local hotel.

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