Down Under rally yacht crew tell survival story

Liberty III rescue
Preparing to bring the crew of the Liberty aboard the lifeboat of the Pacific Dawn. Photo: Down Under Rally

The captain and crew of Down Under Rally participant Liberty III have told the compelling story of their dramatic rescue at sea.

The Down Under Rally is a series of long-distance yachting events, with participants in the Go West event currently on their way to Bundaberg from New Caledonia and Vanuatu.

Go East participant Liberty III was returning home from New Caledonia when disaster struck.

Organisers received the news by email last week from skipper Chris Doran:

“Just before dawn, both motors shuddered and stopped at the same time. We were doing about 8.5 knots, we started taking on water and the pumps could not keep up, including the manual ones,” Chris said.

“We amazingly run over a 50-metre piece of ship's rope in the dark and the torque of the motors tore an A-frame out holding the shafts.

“We made the decision after about two hours or so to prepare to abandon ship and hop in to the life raft, as I was worried she could roll over and trap someone or entangle the life raft.

“Sad to lose the vessel, but glad everyone is safe and uninjured.”

Chris attributed survival to skills he learnt during a preparation course and emergency procedures workshop.

“We used our main EPIRB but reserved our personal ones in case we were going to be in the raft for a while, as at the time of entering the raft the closest help was at least 12 hours or more away,” he said.

“We had two fully charged VHF which we used once the rescue ship was in range.

“We also used our flares to assist them with a visual once they were in radio range.

“We had trouble getting away from the sinking vessel, and people should consider this when making a decision to leave the vessel, as there is a great risk the raft or its sea anchor could become entangled with the main vessel.

“I will always step down and not up into a life raft, I believe it is too risky to hanging there to the end.

“The raft was quite stable compared to the half-sinking swaying vessel which could knock someone out or badly injure them.”

Rally organisers said Virginia Craig from Port of Call Yacht Services in Vanuatu was instrumental in the rescue, as were the Vanuatu authorities.

P&O Cruises Australia and the crew of Pacific Dawn responded to the distress call and executed the rescue.

Down Under Rally Liberty III rescue
Liberty III after the battle to save her was lost. Photo: Down Under Rally

Go West Bundy Rally

Go West Bundy Rally participants are currently sailing from New Caledonia and Vanuatu to the Port of Bundaberg.

Welcome Week celebrations will run from 6-12 November 2019.