Coast Guard responding to two foundering sailing vessels in the Pacific

AMVER FlagHONOLULU — The Coast Guard and good Samaritans are responding to reports of two foundering sailing vessels roughly 2,000 miles southeast of Hilo on the Big Island, Thursday.

The crews of the fishing vessel Azteca 5 and the commercial car carrier Tomar participating in the AMVER program, are responding to the Ran Tan II and the Irish Eyes respectively. The two sailing ships are approximately 85 miles apart from each other.

“We are very thankful to the crews of the Azteca 5 and Tomar for their willingness to divert course and respond,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Leslie Elliott, a watchstander at Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) Honolulu. “The Pacific is a vast area, and the closest responders in these cases are often fellow mariners. Usually, the best outcomes are due to that professional mariner code because it’s recognized a bad situation can happen to anyone.”

At 5:17 p.m., Wednesday, JRCC watchstanders received a report from the master of the 49-foot sailing vessel Ran Tan II stating the vessel’s keel was failing and the three people aboard were making preparations to abandon ship as needed with supplies and emergency beacons into a life-raft to await rescue. The watchstanders immediately issued a SafteyNet broadcast requesting assistance from vessels in the area. They were located 2,008 miles southeast of Hilo. The crew of the fishing vessel Azteca 5 responded to the request for help and diverted course to the Ran Tan II’s location.

Tuesday, JRCC watchstanders received a report of an SOS activation through a GPS-enabled text device belonging to the 29-foot sailing vessel Irish Eyes 1,840 miles southeast of Hilo. Watchstanders made contact with the master who said the boat was de-masted Monday and they were unable to make repairs, but the two people aboard were seeking assistance from friends in the region. JRCC watchstanders ensured the crew had enough supplies and set up a communication schedule with them to monitor the situation. The watchstanders also began searching for nearby vessels able to assist should the Irish Eyes crew request a rescue.

On Wednesday, that request came, and the JRCC watchstanders issued a SafteyNet broadcast requesting assistance from vessels in the area. The merchant vessel Tomar agreed to assist and began making way towards the Irish Eyes.

“The vastness of the Pacific is a challenge, and this particular part is not heavily trafficked,” said Elliott. “The distance of the closest Coast Guard resource in Hawaii is equivalent to the distance between New York City and Salt Lake City, Utah. Often first responders are days away, and it is why we are thankful for the assistance of good Samaritans and those vessels participating in the Automated Mutual-Response Vessel Rescue System.”

The New Zealand-based Ran Tan II is a performance sailing yacht and was transiting to California from French Polynesia in preparation for the 50th Transpacific Yacht Race due to commence in July. The Irish Eyes is a recreational sailing vessel from California, and was en route to Tahiti when it became de-masted. The weather on scene is reportedly winds of 17 mph and seas up to 7 feet.

AMVER is a worldwide voluntary reporting system sponsored by the United States Coast Guard. It is a computer-based global ship-reporting system used worldwide by search and rescue authorities to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea. With AMVER, rescue coordinators can identify participating ships in the area of those in distress and divert the best-suited ship or ships to respond. Engaging in AMVER does not put ships under any additional obligation to assist in search and rescue efforts, beyond that which is required under international law.

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