Race crew escape from sinking yacht

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2012, 12:00am


A skipper told yesterday how he and his crew dramatically escaped from their sinking boat during the Taiwan Strait Race, organised by the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.

Leon Chan and his 10 crew were plucked to safety after floating on two life rafts for about 90 minutes in the early hours of Sunday.

'Everybody was calm,' he said. They all knew what they had to do.'

Chan was speaking to club officials from aboard the Hong Kong cargo ship Easy Success, which was heading for Manila last night after plucking the nine men and two women from danger.

The drama started when their boat, Tipsy Frenz, started taking on water. Chan, also chairman of the race organisers, said: 'The water was coming in really fast.

'As crew safety is paramount and it was clear there was no point in considering the boat any more, the order was given to abandon ship.'

After getting on board two rafts - five members in one and six in the other - a flare was set off. The crew drifted for about 90 minutes before they saw lights from a ship and set off another flare. The ship, Easy Success, wasn't supposed to be in the vicinity but had diverted its course to Manila to avoid a potential typhoon.

Chan said: 'Although we are all amateur sailors, everyone was calm throughout. No one panicked and they all acted like professionals.

'We were well trained before, even before the survival courses. We were able to practically just walk onto the [two] life rafts. We then cut the lines between the rafts and Tipsy, and within a few minutes she was gone.'

He added: 'Apart from a few bruises, everyone is okay.'

Tipsy Frenz, a 14-metre Wauquiez Centurion 45S, was one of four boats taking part in the race and was heading to Kaohsiung. The club refused to divulge the names of the crew aboard, but it is believed the majority were local Chinese sailors.

In this year's Rolex China Sea Race, Tipsy Frenz was crewed by Chan, Dr C.P. Wong, Kan Wing-lok, Yong Kong-fan, Dr H.H. Tse, Jeremy James Calvin Cheung, Dennis Chien, Tang Ka-nin, Ng Wing-hung and Fiona Cheung. The owners are James Lau and Spencer Suen.

Weather reports for the area at the time of the incident indicated wind speeds of 20 to 25 knots from the northeast and seas of three to four metres. The club said it first received a mayday call from Chan at 2.37am on Sunday. The crew were picked up four hours later.

The remaining yachts in the race were expected to arrive in Kaohsiung by midday yesterday. Easy Success is due to reach Manila this morning.

It is only the second time the 350-mile race has been organised, with Chan saying beforehand: 'Although we only have four entrants, we are optimistic that over time this race will attract more competitors. It is an excellent opportunity for novice offshore sailors to get a taste of the ocean in warm weather, on a trip of only two or three nights.'