It was exactly 1am on Monday the 2nd of July 2018 when, facing 3 metre seas and 30 knots of breeze, crew member John White slipped over board.
Jedi, a highly competitive J109, was racing in the 2018 edition of the Round Ireland Yacht Race which began two days earlier on Saturday the 29th of June from Wicklow Sailing Club. After a fantastic start where the crew comprising of Michael Boyd (Skipper), Kenneth Rumball, James Gunn, John White, Philip Connor, Lorcan Tighe, Kylie McMillan and Diarmud McLaughlin made significant progress on competitors as the wind began to build crossing the South Coast of Ireland. The first casualty of the race was the critical A3 kite, which blew out. Switching down to the A4 the crew settled into a the slog from the Fastnet lighthouse to the Skelligs.
Once around the rock, possibly now as well known for it’s part in the latest Star Wars features as it ever was before, the crew began beating into a large swell. John took his turn on the wheel, putting in more than his fair share. It was tough, with spray and wash covering the boat, and despite it being July – everyone was beginning to feel the cold. He was relieved shortly before 1am by Kenneth Rumball, and after heading downstairs to put on every last stick of clothing, made the faithful decision to head to the front of the crew.
John clipped onto what he though was the lifeline, and began to make his way forward. In the pitch darkness, Kenneth was just about able to make out a large wave about to crash over the boat. Calling wave, he turned to shield his face, but looked back – just in time to see John lose his footing and tumble overboard.
John describes how what was only at most 2 seconds, felt like slow motion. As he fell down, he crashed through the guardrails and was able to get his finger tips to them. A moment of calm was quickly replaced as what he felt as hands pulling on this feet actually turned out to be the rough water dragging him in!
“MAN OVER BOARD, MAN OVER BOARD!” – the shout from Kenneth on the helm. And so began 15 minutes of exception seamanship, quick thinking and cool heads, that not only resulted in John being recovered onboard, but the crew resuming the race.
Skipper Michael Boyd and Kenneth Rumball we subsequently awarded the RORC Seamanship award. Stay tuned, as we’ll shortly be releasing the a short film on this event in Kenneth and John’s own words. Telling the story of how the whole crew had prepared for this eventuality, acted calmly and professionally during the situation, and did all the right things to ensure the successful outcome.