Rocky ship graveyard claims another victim

Offshore: Sailing experts not sure why racing yacht hit notorious reef

02 November 2017 - 08:33
By Bobby Jordan
REEFER:   The NSRI rescued 18 crew of CV24 Team Greenings from an offshore reef at Olifantsbospunt.
Image: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach REEFER: The NSRI rescued 18 crew of CV24 Team Greenings from an offshore reef at Olifantsbospunt.

Cape Town's maritime community woke up to a conundrum on Wednesday: how did a world-class ocean racing crew with state-of-the-art technology run aground in one of South Africa's most infamous ship graveyards?

The 18-member crew of CV24 Team Greenings, one of 12 boats participating in the Clipper Round the World yacht race, had to be rescued on Tuesday night from an offshore reef at Olifantsbospunt, between Cape Town and Cape Point.

The team escaped unharmed in relatively calm conditions not long after the Table Bay start of the third leg of the race.

Sailing experts said the Olifantsbospunt site has claimed boats over the years and is near a treacherous shipwreck hot spot called Albatross Rocks.

A boating social media site was abuzz with speculation.

"Albatross Rocks infamous for shipwrecks. There's already a good few on there," said one commentator.

"The wrecks were there in the days of no GPS , so not sure why these guys hit it."

NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said the accident site was near to Albatross Rocks.

Ships that have sunk in the area include the Dutch coaster Nolloth in 1965; the US liberty ship Thomas T Tucker, which was laden with tanks and other military equipment, in 1942; and the local trawler Phyllisia in 1968.

Maritime historian Michael Walker described Albatross Rocks as "probably one of the most historic rocks in southern Africa".

He said there were about six major wrecks in the area, including a Royal Mail steamer.

The NSRI said the crew had not been in serious danger.

"On arrival on the scene we found the yacht hard aground on rocks and all casualty crew on board were in life jackets on the yacht and safe and in no imminent danger in an onshore 14 knot northwesterly wind and 1.5m swell," an NSRI statement said.

"An NSRI Kommetjie rescue swimmer ... swam to the yacht through the surf and boarded the yacht to assess the casualty crew medically and to assess the damage to the yacht. All casualty crew were safe and not injured."

Clipper Round the World organisers said the incident would be investigated.

Pictures of the rescued crew were posted on the race website.

"Greenings skipper Andy Woodruff and crew are doing well after some rest in Cape Town and are currently being debriefed by the Clipper Race office team," the organisers said.