On Monday 13 March, World ARC Rally Control was alerted to a developing incident in the area through which the World ARC 2023-24 fleet were sailing. Rally Control received several reports by multiple means that a sailing vessel, RAINDANCER, who was not part of the fleet but sailing close by, had hit a whale and sunk. The reports stated that all the crew members had evacuated to a liferaft and their dinghy, following the sinking of the yacht in around 15 minutes.
At this stage, it was not confirmed in any of the incoming report that MRCCs had been informed. These are the appropriate and professional authorities for coordinating the response to distress situations at sea, and so Rally Control sent an email and made a telephone call to their network.
World ARC Rally Control then put out a Fleet Message to update all the World ARC crews of the situation, including that MRCC Peru was in charge of the operation. At a similar time, the World ARC SSB Radio Net was taking place and the Duty Net controller was Chris Parker on Mistral of Portsmouth. Chris is a retired airline pilot and as he opened the net, beginning with a request for priority traffic, a distress relay message was passed from World ARC yacht Far, regarding the sinking of RAINDANCER.
Through the radio net, it was established that ten boats from the World ARC fleet were close to the last coordinates provided for RAINDANCER and they immediately changed course to sail towards their location as fast as possible, along with two non-World ARC boats, including SV Rolling Stones who were closest. World ARC Rally Control changed the frequency of the YB trackers for these yachts and whilst there was no display for the RAINDANCER crew, the position was clear from the triangulation of all those vessels converging to help.
The crew on RAINDANCER had remained calm, and managed, in the 15 minutes between the collision and the yacht sinking, to collect water, provisions, emergency documentation, electronics and safety equipment, load this into the liferaft and secure their dinghy alongside. They had set off their EPIRB and made a mayday call on the VHF radio to alert the emergency services and other boats in the area to the situation.
Meanwhile, several boats in the area had adequate sat comms to participate in a WhatsApp group and this was also used to helped coordinate the response and keep World ARC and non-World ARC boats updated. Messages passed on this net, were then rebroadcast on the World ARC SSB net, so that everyone was kept informed. Through these means, the crew of Rolling Stones reported the successful recovery of the crew of RAINDANCER just after 0500 UTC. Whilst it must have been a very terrifying experience, to be adrift in a liferaft and dinghy in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the crew of RAINDANCER knew that assistance was close and to be recovered within 10 hours, was a very efficient response.
On board Rolling Stones, after the incident, Rick Rodriguez, the owner and skipper of RAINDANCER commented ‘A huge thanks to the entire sailing community for coming together to aid in our rescue. The one thing I have always loved about sailing is the people’. Thank you on behalf of Rally Control to all those vessels that responded, and the MRCCs involved.