Charter company Sunsail has announced it will take "a considerable amount of time" for its insurers to assess the full extent of the damage caused to its fleet by Hurricane Irma

18 September

Sunsail is reporting few cancellations as it continues to assess the full impact of Hurricane Irma on its operations in the Caribbean.

The charter company said many people had chosen to rearrange their holidays for a later date.

In a statement released at the Southampton Boat Show, Sunsail said assessing the damage to its fleet would be a long process.

“We are assessing out fleet and our teams on the ground have performed initial inspections. We are now awaiting our insurer’s Marine Surveyors to take full stock of the damaged fleet,” it said.

“This will commence within the next few days. The damage assessment will take a considerable amount of time, however, we will use every measure at our disposal to replace the fleet, where needed, as soon as we can”.

A royal Marine assists a victim of Hurricane Irma

A Royal Marine hands out water to a resident in Tortola, BVIs. Credit: PA Images

Sunsail, which has been operating out of the Caribbean for many years, said its priority was its staff and customers, and it was “heartened” by the response to its Employee Relief Fund to assist those affected.

It said its bases in The Bahamas, St Lucia, Grenada and Belize are operational, although the marinas and fleet in the British Virgin Islands and St Martin have “been severely affected”.

It added that its offices in Clearwater and Fort Lauderdale in Florida have been affected by power outages, but it had not had any damage reported.

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Sunsail said it had “robust, detailed and well-rehearsed” hurricane preparation and emergency response plans and it was confident that everything was done ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history.

The charter company is also working with specific Government in the affected areas.

Boats on land after Hurricane Irma passes through St Martin

Damage caused to Saint Martin. Credit: Robin Utrecht/ABACA/PA images

It stressed it was still taking bookings for The Bahamas, St Lucia and The Grenadines. It added that although its Antigua base is closed as this time of the year, it will be operational as soon as the fleet arrives.

“The tourism industry is the beating heart of the Caribbean. Communities and businesses will be able to get back on their feet with the support of local government and the commitment of our customers. We intend to come back stronger than ever,” promised Sunsail.

14 September

This weekend’s Bart’s Bash will be raising funds to help rebuild community sailing projects on Caribbean islands affected by Hurricane Irma.

Organisers of the biggest sailing event in the world said a number of sailing and yacht clubs in the Caribbean that have been affected by Hurricane Irma have taken part in Bart’s Bash in previous years.

Many had planned to hold an event during this weekend’s Bart’s Bash.

 

In light of recent events, the Andrew Simpson Foundation has pledged to use the funds raised from this year’s Bart’s Bash to help those affected eventually rebuild their community sailing projects.

This will allow them to deliver grassroots sailing programmes to young people.

 

Founding Trustee and most recently, Artemis Racing’s Team Manager for the America’s Cup, Iain Percy, said everyone is keen to help those affected by Hurricane Irma.

“The news and images from the Caribbean are simply horrific and the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma has been something none of us has ever witnessed on this scale,” he said.

“Our thoughts go out to everyone affected. As a foundation we are keen to contribute some practical help through our global Bart’s Bash fundraising and participation initiative,” he added.

The funds raised will be distributed via Member National Associations (MNA’s) of World Sailing to areas affected.

Bart’s Bash will be taking place from 16-17 September.

So far, 587 sailing clubs and venues in 79 countries have signed up to take part.

Meanwhile, marinas, sailing and yacht clubs in the Caribbean are clearing up following the devastation left by Hurricane Irma.

Yachts in a marine at Nanny Cay after Hurricane Irma

Nanny Cay Marina in Tortola in the BVI’s has already cleared its outer marina, just a week after it was hit by the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history.

12 September

Sir Ben and Lady Georgie Ainslie, Ian Walker, Shirley Robertson, Sam Davies, Andy Beadsworth and Helena Lucas are among those pledging their support for a fundraising dinner in aid of the victims of Hurricane Irma.

The Hurricane Irma Relief Fundraising Dinner is being organised by Sail Aid UK, and will take place on the evening of Saturday, 11 November 2017 on the ‘Flight Deck’ at Land Rover BAR, the home of the British America’s Cup Team, in Old Portsmouth, Hampshire.

Two people on board a wooden boat

Sir Ben Ainslie and his wife, Lady Georgie

Adventurer and broadcaster Hannah White has already agreed to be Mistress of Ceremonies at the Black Tie/Loud Shirt event.

The evening, which is being billed as “an opportunity for the sailing community to unite”, promises to be entertaining, with a silent as well as a live auction and a raffle.

Sail Aid UK said the funds raised by the dinner will be channelled towards helping support the relief effort for the regeneration and reconstruction of communities in those British territories in the Caribbean that have been most severely hit by the recent spate of hurricanes.

Boats destroyed by Hurricane Irma

Nanny Cay Boat Yard in Tortola following Hurricane Irma. Credit: You Tube

These include, but are not limited to, the British Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda and Anguilla.

The funds will be allocated to specific projects based on various criteria set out by the trustees, with a key focus being on supporting the communities that are dependant on the sea and watersports for their livelihood and social wellbeing.

In a media release, Sail Aid UK said: “There are numerous projects that will need supporting which are not being covered by insurance.”

“It is vital that these projects are given a lifeline for the ongoing re-development of what has been a vibrant part of the Caribbean in order to protect and save the very soul of what so many love about the beautiful islands.”

The formation of the Sail Aid UK charity is already underway.

Meanwhile, the organisers are planning to link a Virgin Money Giving page from the SAUK Facebook platform to allow for more immediate donations to be made to the SAUK ‘Action Stations’ fund.

The November fundraising event is the main launch initiative that kick-starts a longer-term plan to help the islanders rebuild their lives, their businesses and their economies.

Speaking on behalf of the Sail Aid UK team, international yachtsman Philippe Falle said: “The UK sailing community pledges to support the Caribbean victims of the 2017 hurricanes which have completely destroyed entire islands. It will take years to rebuild a part of the world that so many of us enjoy both professionally and for our leisure activities.”

“Sail Aid UK strives to support that process and this exciting fundraising dinner with many sailing celebrities and stars already committed to supporting it gives everyone focus,” he continued.

International yachtsman Philippe Falle during the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race

Philippe Falle. Credit: You Tube

“Please like and share our Facebook page to keep updated and don’t miss out on the opportunity to give something back to the communities that give us so much pleasure year after year,” he added.

Those interested in getting involved with Sail Aid UK, whether in donating prizes, donating funds, or making enquiries about table bookings for the dinner are asked to email the organisation at: hello@sailaiduk.com.

08 September 

Members of the UK’s marine industry have come together to help raise vital funds for those affected by Hurricane Irma – the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history.

The storm, which has a sustained wind speed of at least 185mph, has left 19 dead and others missing in the Caribbean as it continues its path of destruction towards Cuba, The Bahamas and Florida.

It has been downgraded to a category four storm.

Some of the worst affected Caribbean islands include Anguilla, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands (BVIs), St Martin and St Barts.

In Tortola in the BVIs, Irma was no match for the island’s hurricane hole at Paraquita Bay; dozens of yachts were destroyed.

The Nanny Cay Boat Yard on the island has also been badly affected.

To help in the rescue efforts, those within the UK’s marine industry have united to form Sail Aid UK

In a statement, the working group set up to co-ordinate the initiative said plans were still “very much in their infancy”, but it had been “inundated with offers of help and support for the cause from the UK sailing community which has strong connections with the Caribbean Islands, their residents and their many and varied regattas and sailing events.”

“The team is currently liaising with representatives on the ground to determine the best route for channelling funds appropriately and in a timely fashion,” said Sail Aid UK.

boats and cars destroyed as a result of Hurricane Irma

Yachts destroyed in St Martin. Credit: You Tube

A high profile fundraising event is being planned on the south coast to raise much needed money.

Branding and social media platforms are being set up over the next 24 hours and all notifications and further news will be posted on these thereafter, said the working group.

Charter companies assess the damage caused by Hurricane Irma

Meanwhile, many charter companies are assessing the impact of Hurricane Irma, as well as preparing for Hurricane Jose, a category three storm which is following in Irma’s wake.

The BVIs is a popular cruising ground, and many companies operate from the area such as Sunsail and The Moorings.

In a statement, Sunsail said it has been badly affected by the hurricane.

“Thank you everyone for your continued support, prayers and offers to help with our recovery plans. The damage sustained at our locations in St Martin and British Virgin Islands is extensive, but our guests are safe and we continue to reach out to all of our team members.”

“Our locations in Antigua and Bahamas have reported all team members safe and minimal impact to the fleet.  Hurricane Jose passed to the northeast of our bases without further impact.  However, with major damage to cell phone towers and power outages communications remain difficult at this time.”

Track of Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma (left) and Hurricane Jose (right) in the Atlantic Ocean. Credit: PA Images

“Our locations in Grenada and St Lucia are unaffected and continue to operate charters normally. While we continue to assess the damage to our fleet and properties, our first concern is the safety of our teams and customers.”

“We have closed our Florida offices as Hurricane Irma continues to move North.  Due to precautions taken with our IT infrastructure prior to the arrival of Hurricane Irma, there may be issues with online booking over the next few days,” added Sunsail.

Sunsail customers with questions regarding upcoming charters are being asked to speak with a Vacation Planning Specialist at 0330 3321172, or email sales@sunsail.com.

Track the path of Hurricane Irma with YBW’s weather app

In a statement on its Facebook page, The Moorings said it was doing everything possible to minimise the impact to its guests and team members.

“We are continuing to monitor conditions and are taking the appropriate precautions at our base locations in St. Martin, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. The safety of our guests and team members is, as always, our utmost concern. Customers with questions regarding upcoming charters, please see webpage for additional information,” said the statement.

Debris from storm surge

Debris is seen during a storm surge near the Puerto Chico Harbor. Credit: Getty

The US prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall in Florida this weekend.

The country’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has warned that Hurricane Irma will “devastate” either Florida or nearby states, and it remains “incredibly dangerous”.

It also also warning that up to 100,000 people may need shelter, and many will not have electricity for days.

A mandatory evacuation is in place in parts of southern Florida.

Earlier this week, US boat owners began lifting their vessels out of the water and moving them inland.

Meanwhile, people living in the low-lying coastal areas of The Bahamas are being evacuated.

Thousands of tourists have also left Cuba ahead of the storm’s arrival.

07 September

Hurricane Irma – the most powerful storm to hit the Atlantic in a decade – has destroyed yachts, buildings and caused major flooding to some islands in the Caribbean.

The category five hurricane has sustained wind speeds of up to 185mph.

It has already hit Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Martin, St Barts and the British Virgin Islands, leaving 10 dead and thousands homeless.

Tortola in the British Virgin Islands is a popular cruising ground, with many charter companies operating from the area, including Sunsail.

In a statement, the company said it was still trying to assess the impact of the hurricane, and stressed its priority was the safety of its guests and staff.

“Our thoughts go out to all of those affected by Hurricane Irma as we work to minimize the impact to our guests and associates. We are continuing to monitor conditions and are taking the appropriate precautions at our bases in St. Martin, the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas,” said Sunsail.

“The safety of our guests and associates is, as always, our utmost concern. Customers with questions regarding upcoming charters can speak with a Vacation Planning Specialist at 0330 3321172, or email sales@sunsail.com,” it added.

Images on social media show devastating scenes from Paraquita Bay – the hurricane hole in Tortola.

Anna Bullimore

Photo taken by Ron Gurney at Paraquita Bay while inside the eye…

The French Interior Minister, Gérard Collomb, told the BBC that the four  “most solid” buildings on Saint Martin, shared by France and the Netherlands, have been destroyed, along with the island’s airport.

There is major flooding in low-lying areas and violent seas are battering the coastlines.

The US National Hurricane Center is reporting that the eye of the “potentially catastrophic” hurricane is now moving towards the Dominican Republic.

As it continues on its current path, it is expected to pass the Bahamas before hitting Florida at the weekend.

Boats owners in the US are preparing for the worst, with many vessels being lifted out of the water and moved inland for safe storage.

In the Key West area of Florida, the authorities have ordered a mandatory evacuation.

The President of the United States, Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency for Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Federal disaster relief efforts are already preparing to offer aid in affected areas.

Hurricane Irma comes as people in Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee clear up after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

The storm caused wide spread flooding last week.

It was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the USA since 2005.