RNLI Baltimore lifeboat assists an entrant in the Fastnet Yacht race

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Published on: August 12, 2009

Date: 12/08/2009

The RNLI Baltimore all weather lifeboat was tasked to assist Valencia Coastguard when an entrant in the Fastnet Yacht race suffered a radio malfunction which caused continuous transmissions on Channel 16. In marine VHF, Channel 16 is used as the international distress channel. The continuous transmissions precluded any other essential distress traffic being heard.

All during the day the open microphone on the yacht participating in the Fastnet yacht race had been transmitting on channel 16 unbeknownst to the occupants. In the event of an emergency, a mayday alert is transmitted on Channel 16.

Based on hourly positions from the race organisers in Cowes the lifeboat Hilda Jarrett, located the yacht with two crew aboard 3 miles Southeast of the Stags Rocks.

In poor visibility and without radio communication the lifeboat crew made best use of radar and estimated course and speed of the yacht as she tacked towards the Fastnet. Information on sail and hull colour was obtained via the Coastguard allowing a positive identification.

Voice communication was established and the problem explained to the yacht skipper. Mobile phone contact was made between the yacht and the Coastguard. The yacht agreed to switch off its main VHF set and proceed with a handheld VHF.

Having restored an open Channel 16, the lifeboat returned to Baltimore harbour.

The Fastnet race from the port of Cowes in the South of England around the Fastnet Rock off the coast of cape Clear Island and back has a long and sometimes tragic history.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the Fastnet Yacht disaster in which 23 yachts were lost or abandoned and 15 sailors lost their lives.

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