The catamaran was photographed by divers, recovered by a tugboat and then lost on the way to land.
A catamaran that family members of three lost sailors believe to be the craft their loved ones were sailing has been found and then lost again.
The trio of sailors and their Sunsail catamaran went missing in a cyclone on 18 January 2015. The sailors haven’t been seen or heard from since, but a similar catamaran was discovered last week, floating off the coast of South Africa, and photographed by National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) divers (photos below). A tugboat was dispatched to recover the boat, but the tug reportedly lost the vessel it was towing on the way back to land. The catamaran has not been located again.
A statement on the Sunsail press website said:
“Sunsail carried out an air search on Friday, 29th January with an independent observer on board the search aircraft but unfortunately the search was unsuccessful and the vessel was not sighted….
“Sunsail carried out an additional air search on Monday, 1 February, but unfortunately this search was also unsuccessful and the vessel was not sighted. We had all hoped that the search would be successful but we continue to focus on trying to locate the vessel and are discussing options with external advisors, including a specialist firm to investigate the area’s prevailing drift patterns. Sunsail’s team in Cape Town are continuing to liaise with the local authorities.
“It would appear that one of the NSRI divers took a photograph showing the manufacturers’ plate when the NSRI team originally located the vessel. The plate appears to identify the vessel as the missing Sunsail RC044-978, however, Sunsail has not yet received any formal validation and is touch with the NSRI divers who took the photographs in order to try and confirm identification.
“Sunsail has received a request to meet with the families and is happy to organise a private meeting with them, either individually or as a group, however at the present time the management of Sunsail are focussed on trying to locate the vessel and so it would prefer that any such meeting take place at a later date.”
26 January 2016
Family members of a group of sailors who haven’t been heard from in a year are waiting to identify a capsized catamaran being towed back to land.
The overturned sailboat the family reportedly believe to be a Sunsail catamaran whose crew hasn’t been heard from for a year was spotted some 42 miles offshore from Cape Alguhas on South Africa’s southern coast. South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) at Alguhas launched a sea rescue craft to the scene on 23 January.
The capsized catamaran has reportedly been sighted on multiple occasions in recent weeks. On arrival on the scene, following a brief search, the NSRI photographed the upturned hull of the catamaran and rescue swimmers free dived to investigate markings. However, the divers were unable to confirm the craft’s identity.
A statement on the NSRI website said: “NSRI could not positively identify her as Sunsail. No physical markings were found on the Catamaran to assist to identify her and photographs have been sent to MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre), family of the missing crew of the Catamaran Sunsail and to the Catamaran Sunsail owners to allow them to investigate further.”
Sunsail have published a message on their website, stating: “Sunsail assembled an operational team at the news of the sighting on 18th January with a view to recovering the yacht and had been liaising with the authorities in this regard until the decision was made to dispatch the tug boat Peridot. We are now awaiting news of the recovery operation and the estimated arrival time of the yacht back into Cape Town where we intend to have a Sunsail team to meet the vessel.”
A spokeswoman for the families of the missing crew reportedly said they and other sailors were certain it was the Sunsail.
Diane Coetzer told South African news website IOL: “This is definitely our hull. The NSRI sent through photographs to us and the sailors and workmen that we have been in touch with since this happened know this catamaran and know its markings have told us 100 percent this is our catamaran.”
Reginald Robertson, 59, Anthony Murray, 58, and Jaryd Payne, 20, were sailing to Phuket, Thailand, in the catamaran Sunsail RC044-978 and departed from Cape Town on December 14, 2014. They have not been seen or heard from since January 18, 2015.
Coetzer said the NSRI divers did not see any bodies inside the vessel.
“We will never have total closure because we will never know what happened at that time. It remains opinion and speculation, but what we are hoping for is answers. Our emotions are very high.”
She said the families intended to have the catamaran forensically examined and said the NSRI had offered world-class service in the effort to recover the sailboat.
NSRI Agulhas attached a satellite tracking beacon to the boat to allow MRCC to monitor Sunsail’s position and MRCC tug Peridot arrived on the scene on Sunday, but could not begin towing operations until Monday due to failing light.