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Solent Sunbeam successfully raised after sinking off Cowes

by Graham Colbourne 21 Jul 2010 15:29 BST
Solent Sunbeam 'Harmony' is successfully raised after sinking off Cowes © Graham Colbourne

Solent Sunbeam Harmony (V11) sank after completing the annual Dainty Dish passage race from Itchenor, Chichester Harbour to Cowes, Isle of Wight. Harmony was racing against 12 other Solent Sunbeam and was crewed by her owners Duncan & Fleur O’Kelly and Larry Lugg (who owns a Daring).

Having crossed the finishing line near Trinity Buoy off Cowes Harbour on Saturday July 17th just after 1600hrs, Harmony (V11), tacked towards the harbour and mooring buoys. She was swamped by a large wave caused by wind over tide, coupled with wash from other vessels. The electric pump, (which had been working well during the race) and manual pumps were not able to cope with this sudden ingress of water. As she became lower in the water, more waves overwhelmed her and she sank very quickly.

Very fortunately all crew were wearing PFDs. Two of the crew had self-inflating life jackets. Duncan had to pull a toggle to inflate his lifejacket. It was relatively windy (F5) and the strong spring tide setting west made it difficult for the crew to stay together and impossible to swim. The Solent Sunbeam Class Captain, Julian Money, finished just after Harmony in his boat Penny (V42). He raised a Mayday call with Solent Coast Guard, threw the crew a horseshoe life ring and kept the crew of Harmony in site.

After 20 minutes the Harmony crew was picked up by two different sailing yachts and put ashore at Trinity Landing, opposite the Royal London Yacht Club where they were met by the Cowes RNLI and fellow Sunbeam sailors.

After 24 hours of searching, Harmony was successfully located in about 20m of water by a boat with side scanner and her position given to MMC Divers. On Monday MMC partially lifted her with airbags, towed her to Shepard’s Wharf where she was pumped out and lifted with strops. The mast was broken in two places and the deck lifted from the hull. She requires a number of repairs but has survived her ordeal remarkably well for a boat built in 1925.

Harmony is now in Lallows Boatyard, Cowes awaited repair. With luck she will be sailing again in time for Cowes Week at the beginning of August.

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