Yacht In Fastnet Race Capsizes

More than 20 crew on board a racing yacht are recovering following a dramatic rescue when it capsized off the Irish coast.

Some 314 yachts - including six Irish boats - are taking part in the Rolex Fastnet Race and set sail from Cowes on the Isle of Wight on Sunday.

The US-registered boat, Rambler 100, overturned about 16 miles from Baltimore, Co Cork, just before 6pm on August 15th.

One woman was airlifted to hospital after spending several hours in the water. She is believed to have been suffering from hypothermia and is in hospital.

The RNLI said 16 crew members were sitting on the hull of the 100ft vessel and five were missing when a lifeboat from Baltimore arrived at the scene just after 8pm.

A local dive team picked the remaining survivors out of the water.

Kieron Cotter, coxswain of the volunteer crew, said:

''We picked the 16 people off the hull and took them on board the lifeboat, with our dinghy going back and forth, and organised for other boats in the area to search for the missing five.

''They were picked up by a local diving boat.''

The five included a man in his 70s, he added.

The crew are believed to have been looked after by locals in Baltimore last night after being brought to shore.

A decision is to be made today on whether to try to salvage the capsized yacht.

The alarm was raised when the yacht's personal locator beacon was activated as it overturned five miles south west of Fastnet lighthouse.

Mr Cotter, whose crew was on an exercise in the area, said the sea was not rough but visibility was down to one mile as they searched for the stricken yacht and crew.

''Eventually somebody saw something in the distance and it was them,'' he said.

''I've never seen anything like it before in 36 years with the RNLI. It was totally amazing. They told us five other yachts had passed within a mile and hadn't seen them.''

Mr Cotter said the keel of the boat broke shortly after it passed the Fastnet Rock, causing it to overturn within 15 seconds and throwing everyone overboard.

''One man managed to get up on the hull and get the rest up, but the other five drifted away,'' he said.

''It was very dramatic.''

The Irish Coast Guard co-ordinated the major rescue operation, which involved Baltimore RNLI, the Shannon and Waterford-based rescue helicopters, and Irish Naval vessel the LE Ciara.

One crew member was treated in hospital and 20 were taken back to Baltimore Harbour, where they were assessed by medical staff.

Ian Loffhagen, racing manager of the Rolex Fastnet Race, said the yacht - skippered by George David - capsized between the Fastnet Rock and the Pantaenius Buoy.

''All 21 crew have been rescued,'' he said.

The crew were looked after by locals in Baltimore last night.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial event takes the fleet 608 miles along the south coast of the UK and across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock off south west Ireland, before returning around the Scilly Isles to the finish in Plymouth.

The event has a fearsome reputation after the 1979 race which was devastated by strong winds and seas, resulting in 15 deaths.