Going from bad to worse
Published on May 26th, 2019
Atlas Ocean Racing, a sailing team whose main objective is to contribute to the international development of Québec’s seamanship, suffered from a seamanship mishap on May 22 which resulted in the grounding of their VO60 Esprit de Corps IV on Cross Island, NS.
Whilst returning from a season of racing in the Caribbean, the crew was 20nm before Lunenburg when they sought to douse sails before entering the channel. But when gale force winds blew a sail overboard and fouled the propeller, their situation at 4am AST became dire.
The strong gusts and loss power led the boat to drift towards Cross Island where she ran aground. The crew prompted a PAN PAN to get the boat towed but later a water breech made the situation to upgrade to MAYDAY.
After the eight crew members were rescued and returned to land safely, the mission turned toward the recovery of the yacht, but when they returned to the site on May 24 they found that looters had ransacked the boat, stripping even ropes and shackles from the damaged vessel.
‘I think it’s way more heartbreaking to see that kind of behavior in these conditions than the accident’,” said Maxime Grimard, skipper of the Esprit de Corps IV. “On top of that kind of trauma, you come back and your boat’s been looted. So that’s pretty discouraging.”
Thieves stole safety equipment, a life-raft, harnesses, shackles, ropes, “anything of value,” as well as leaving the vessel’s boom unsecured and flapping, he said.
“It’s not just about getting valuables from a boat, it’s also making it more complicated for us to co-ordinate the salvage of the boat,” Grimard said.
“We wanted to bring more stability to the boat itself… we were hoping to use some of the ropes that were onboard as well. So I mean it’s not just about the valuables. It’s really about making all this more complicated in this situation, which is already complicated.”
The incident is heart wrenching to James Watlington who recalls when the Esprit de Corps IV rescued him from peril.
“Almost two years ago to the day, our yacht started taking on water in mid-Atlantic, 200 miles south of Bermuda, when they came to our rescue. When we abandoned ship in a life raft, they took us aboard. The whole transfer was dealt with in the most professional and seamanlike manner. My shipmates and I are forever grateful to them
“To learn now that they’ve been looted… it’s just shameful. Atlas Ocean Racing puts Canadians on the water under sail, with their enterprise driven by passion. They have done an enormous amount to keep Canada on the map as a sailing nation. They deserve better treatment from their own countrymen.”
The weather is calming down in the next days which might show a great window of opportunity to have the boat removed from the site in the next week.