The Antarctic research vessel SA Agulhas is steaming through rough seas in the Southern Ocean to rescue the crew of an Australian yacht, Cowrie Dancer
, after its mizzen mast broke and a crew member was washed overboard in a storm with swells of between five- and eight metres.
A South African crew member, Carol Erasmus, 32, of Uvongo on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, was unhurt but exhausted on Tuesday after the ordeal, which took place about 700 nautical miles south of Port Elizabeth.
The two other crew members, both Australian, were injured.
Carol's mother, Melody Erasmus, said on Tuesday night that her daughter had been living with her in Uvongo since leaving Johannesburg. "I'm very worried about Carol. I lost my eldest son by drowning at the Vaal Dam eight years ago," she said.
Erasmus said Carol was doing a skipper's course.
"She went on this yacht trip because she needed 800 nautical miles for her skipper's ticket," she said.
Attempts by the crew to find the missing man, John Blackman of Australia, have been unsuccessful and the crew are now motoring towards the SA Agulhas.
Jacques Smit of South Africa's Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, which is co-ordinating the search from Silvermine, said the Agulhas had left Marion Island at 6am on Tuesday to go to the assistance of the stricken yacht. It should reach the yacht by Wednesday afternoon.
Cowrie Dancer's skipper, Dale Peterson of Australia, broke a leg in the storm and Australian crew member Nicholas Lawson has hurt his hip, which may be fractured.
Blackman, the crew member who is missing overboard, is an experienced sailor whose voyages include sailing up the Amazon.
Lawson is a doctor with Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Smit said the Cowrie Dancer's batteries were running low, but the SA Agulhas had managed to make contact with the yacht on Tuesday.
"It is motoring towards the Agulhas. I spoke to the Agulhas just now and they had managed to get in communication with the yacht.
"The South African woman appears to be the only crew member not injured. The Agulhas said the crew are very tired, but seem to be doing okay.
"The weather is not too pleasant. They are just in the Roaring Forties," Smit said.
He said the Australian maritime rescue centre had picked up Cowrie Dancer's mayday distress call and had relayed the information to the South African rescue centre because the yacht had been in the South African rescue area.
"We got the call at 7.30pm on Monday. Reports were that they had lost their mizzen - that's the mast towards the back of the yacht - and that one crew member was missing overboard. I assume it was because of bad weather.
"Earlier, the yacht was sailing back towards the place where they lost the man overboard, but now they have turned around and are heading towards the Agulhas," Smit said.
The yacht, from Perth, is on a round-the-world trip in the southern latitudes.
It rounded Cape Horn in March and sailed to Cape Town, where it berthed at the Royal Cape Yacht Club.
The yacht left Cape Town on Monday last week.
Erasmus, an engineer who worked in Johannesburg for Denel until four months ago, joined the crew from Cape Town.
The maritime section of the weather office in Pretoria said on Tuesday there was bad weather from a deep frontal low that was moving across the Southern Ocean.
"At the moment, the sea is very rough with swells between five- and seven metres," the weather office spokesperson said on Tuesday afternoon.
He said swells in that part of the ocean on Monday had been up to eight-metres high.
The weather was likely to improve on Wednesday, with swells dropping to four metres, he said.
- This article was originally published on page 1 of The Mercury on May 02, 2007
Also see: http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?Men...ContentID=27592