Guardian – James Sturcke
Dozens of students, including three Britons, took to life rafts after their vessel succumbed to bad weather off Brazil
Dozens of students, including three British teenagers, were left floating on life rafts in the Atlantic for nearly two days after their boat sank off the coast of Brazil.
Sarah Calascione, 19, Nicole Turner, 18, and Gabriella Haines, 16, were among 41 students and 23 crew aboard the SV Concordia, a 57-metre long sailing ship which capsized in bad weather off the coast of Rio de Janeiro last Wednesday.
They scrambled for lifeboats and spent 40 hours in torrential rain and surging waves before being rescued by the Brazilian navy, which has been criticised over the rescue operation.
“I didn’t think we were going to be rescued. It was horrible,” said Calascione, who joined the ship, which set sail from Canada last September, two weeks ago. “The radio equipment was damaged so we only had an EPIRB [distress beacon] which sends out a satellite signal, but that wasn’t picked up straight away. It wasn’t until 30 hours later that a spotter plane saw our life raft.”
The ship’s operators, the Nova Scotia-based West Island College International, said they were waiting for details of the rescue response. “We really don’t have the answers as to why different decisions were made with the Brazilian rescue or with the navy at various times,” the college president, Nigel McCarthy, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
SV Concordia capsized during a microburst – a rare and sudden downdraft of air in a small area – on Wednesday afternoon, about 300 miles off Brazil.
A spokeswoman for the Brazilian navy, Maria Padilha, said that naval responders received a distress signal about 10pm local time on Wednesday and tried to make radio contact with the vessel.
They also communicated with nearby ships and aircraft to see if they could spot anything wrong in the area, she said.
But it was not until late the next day that a spotter aircraft located the life rafts.
The sail ship left Recife in north-east Brazil on 8 February and was sailing to Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, where it was due to arrive on 25 February, as part of a 10-month voyage. The vessel had already visited Ireland, the Mediterranean and north-west Africa.
The Canadian college’s class afloat programme offers school and university credits for students embarking on a long voyage, visiting 30 ports in at least 20 countries. The trip costs £25,000 each.
Calascione was used to the sea after sailing with her parents from Malta to Australia as a child. She is due to start a history degree at Exeter University in September.
“We were told there had been a distress signal and spotter planes and navy boats had been deployed but there was no sign of the Concordia,” her mother, Caroline Calascione, said. “It was a very harrowing and emotional experience. It wasn’t until we received a phone call from Sarah on Saturday that we knew she was safe.
The ship’s captain, William Curry, said the Concordia’s crew had prepared a day beforehand for what they anticipated would be rough but not unusual weather. He was below deck when the ship suddenly keeled – which was normal. But it was when it keeled a second time that he knew the vessel was in great danger.
A Brazilian naval ship took about 10 students back to shore on Saturday with the rest arriving on merchant vessels.
“We had been in the life raft for about 30 hours when we saw a search plane for the first time,” said 16-year-old Lauren Unsworth, a Dutch-Canadian passenger who lives in Amsterdam. “That’s when we knew we were not alone and that help was on the way.”
She added: “The boat started keeling a lot. It came back up, keeled again, was basically lying on its side and all the windows began to break. That’s when we knew it was time to flee.”
Edgardo Ybranez, captain of the Philippine flagged cargo ship that rescued 44 people, said everyone from the Concordia was unhurt except for the doctor, who suffered an injury before the rescue “but he is OK now.” Ybranez gave no more details.
Concordia was a steel–hulled barquentine that was built in Poland in 1992 for the West Island College, Montreal, Canada. She served as a sail training ship until she capsized and sank on 17 February 2010.
Concordia was built by Colod of Szczecin, Poland in 1991, and completed in April 1992. She was 57.50 metres (188 ft 8 in) long, with a beam of 9.44 metres (31 ft 0 in) and a draft of 4.00 metres (13 ft 1 in). She was 35.00 metres (114 ft 10 in) to the top of the highest mast. Her hull was made of steel, and she was rigged as a barquentine. As well as sails, she was propelled by a MAN diesel engine, which could propel her at 9 knots (17 km/h).
Concordia was owned by West Island College. She was designed and used for the West Island College Class Afloat program. Her port of registry was Bridgetown, Barbados. On 5 December 1996, an explosion on board during battery charging resulted in the death of a crewmember.
On 17 February 2010, SV Concordia encountered what the vessel’s Captain called a microburst some 550 kilometres (300 nmi) southeast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in rough seas and high winds. The vessel keeled over to one side in what the Captain reported lasted 15 seconds, then righted, keeled once more and eventually sank 30 minutes afterward. All on board successfully abandoned ship. As the capsizing was so fast, no radio distress call was made but a distress radiobeacon was activated when the vessel sank.
The Concordia sank at 15 hrs local time Wednesday. The distress radiobeacon signal was not received until 22 hrs local time by the Brazilian Navy. After attempting to contact the Concordia a Brazilian Air Force C-130 Hercules was dispatched 19 hours later at 17 hrs local time Thursday and sighted the liferafts 3 hours later.
The survivors spent nearly 30 hours in liferafts before the aircraft spotted them. The Hercules then directed the merchant vessels to the scene, the rescue being completed early Friday morning, 40 hours after the sinking . All 64 people (48 students, eight teachers and eight crew) who were on board were rescued from 5 life rafts by the merchant vessels Hokuetsu Delight and the Crystal Pioneer.
“We want to stress that the meeting of people from the vessel and the ferry was the result of an aircraft patrol the Brazilian Air Force,” said Vice Admiral Gilberto Roffé Max Hirschfeld, Commander of First Naval District (DN 1) the opening of the press conference.
Keaton Farwell, Laure Unsworth, Katharine Irwin and Olivia Aftergood, students who were aboard the boat, told that was the beginning of a biology class. Some students were already in the classroom, others still in the dining area of the ship, when he turned. Were only 15 seconds to enter the water and flood almost the entire ship and then was given the distress signal via satellite and immediately were sent to all the ferries, “We feel cold, the waves were very high, it was raining too, was a great discomfort, but we managed to collect rain water to drink, “reported about the distress they felt at sea.
Fear no one knows what happened and the possibility to stay there weeks, knowing it could end up dying were the worst thoughts on board lifeboats, according to Keaton Farwell.
Natasha Carruthers, 18, Canadian students, it was time for his shift in the boat when he saw the aircraft from the Brazilian Air Force: “We took turns each hour to stand in front of the boat and have better visibility to spot any possibility of rescue. It was in my hours of duty that I saw the plane fly over us. I used the flag of the boat. Other boats that we could not even sight we did the same. Only then we realize that the boats were close to each other. When we realize that the plane had seen us, we started to cry. The aircraft began flying in circles where you were. There is no way to describe the feeling of joy, “he said emotionally.
Students from nine different countries have followed a hotel in Rio de Janeiro, where they will await their respective consulates make provision for passports then return to their countries of origin. The other survivors must come to Rio de Janeiro this afternoon, according to the Navy.
“We want to stress that the meeting of people from the vessel and the ferry was the result of an aircraft patrol the Brazilian Air Force,” these were the first words of Vice Admiral Gilberto Roffé Max Hirschfeld, Commander of First Naval District (1 DN ) at the opening press conference.
The vessel left the school in Canada in September of last year. On board, young people between 16 and 21 years in nine countries. In keeping with the travel itinerary, passed by the United Kingdom, Mediterranean Sea and Africa. He crossed the Atlantic and arrived in Recife in January. On February 8, set sail for Montevideo, but the bad weather with strong winds and waves up to 4 meters, made the boat sank on Wednesday, March 17, about 550 km off the coast of Rio de Janeiro .
“We knew the forecast of bad weather. It was something exceptional. The day before we prepare for that one bad day at sea. We set the sails for the bad weather, but the vessel capsized completely at 90 degrees and sank, “said William Curry Also, Commander of Concordia in the conference.
Fear no one knows what happened, the possibility to stay there weeks, knowing it could end up dying. These were the worst thoughts were on board lifeboats, according to Keaton Farwell.
Natasha Carruthers, 18, Canadian students, it was time for his shift in the boat when he saw the aircraft from the Brazilian Air Force: “We took turns each hour to stand in front of the boat and have better visibility to spot any possibility of rescue. It was in my hours of service that I saw the plane fly over us. Usei o sinalizador do bote. I used the flag of the boat. Other boats that our sight could not also made the floater then realized that the boats were close to each other. When we saw that the plane had seen us, we started to cry. The aircraft began flying in circles where you were. There is no way to describe the feeling of joy, “he said emotionally.
Students from nine different countries went to a hotel in Rio de Janeiro, where they await their consulates make provision for their passports so they return to their countries of origin, as the Navy.
Source: COMAR III
The frigate “Constitution” and “Liberal” and tug on the High Seas “Admiral Guillobel” part of the crew searched the vessel Sailing “Concord”, the Canadian flag, which sank about 300 miles (555 kilometers) from the coast Rio de Janeiro, when he carried out the crossing between Recife and Montevideo (Uruguay).
The ship, belonging to the “West Island College International, suspended in Recife on 8 February 2010, and was expected to arrive to Montevideo, on 23 February.
It has been determined by the Office of Search and Rescue, Navy of Brazil (BRAZIL SALVAMAR) that three merchant ships that sailed the western sea they turn out to meet a ferry, located on an aircraft of the Air Force, which maintains a Hercules C-130 in the search.
Alerts have been three ferries with 64 crew being rescued by merchant ship “Hokuetsu Delight. The Merchant Ships “Cristal Pioneer” and “SE Stao Knutsen” has also arrived in the area. According to one crew member was rescued during the voyage, the vessel Sailing “Concord” faced strong winds, coming to capsize and sink.