The massive El Nino conditions certainly had an effect, with the Indian Ocean waters being hotter than ever before. I suspect that what we really had were "elevated" ocean wind conditions, compounded with a large number of boats undertaking the crossing.
Of course many cruising boats reported excellent conditions, specially those that crossed early in the season. However both the southern and northern routes had their fare share of casualties over the course of the season.
We chose the latter route, finding ourselves in 60 knot conditions for several days, with large breaking waves sweeping over the boat from the south east and from the south. Swells were in the 8 to 10 meter range. It was certainly challenging, and I was bloody glad to see Rodrigues appear out of the rain early one morning.
An informal "Indian Ocean Crossing Group" exists on Facebook, and this year there were 69 boats listed for the passage. I estimate that at least another 30 boats made the crossing without listing in the group.
So what is the big picture for boats that crossed the Indian Ocean in 2015-what was the damage bill and just how tough was it?
This is not a complete analysis, but here goes....with (say) around 100 boats making the crossing from the east, and (say) around 20 boats traveling from the west, we can assume something like 120 yachts crossed the Indian Ocean this season. From the information below, we know of five boats lost, one almost lost and one dis-masted on the route. That is a tough passage! With around 4% of vessels lost, it's no wonder that insurers charge a premium for the crossing.
Vessel Lost / SV Moorings ZR6016
|Crystal Blues View From The Cockpit, 400nm From Rodrigues|
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said this on their incident website : "The period of 30 days between the last communication from the sailing vessel and the alerting of search and rescue authorities had resulted in significant challenges in responding to the incident. Search planning undertaken by AMSA indicated the overall search area was greater than 6.5 million square kilometres and 2.5 million square kilometres for the most likely scenario of the vessel suffering a catastrophic incident around 18 January 2015."
Vessel Found / Sirocco Of Oz
Abandoned in October of 2014, the crew rescued by a bulk carrier, the boat was observed partially floating on February 23rd 2015. It was declared a hazard to navigation and a Securite warning issued to all craft.
Vessel Abandoned / SV Pulsion
Following the loss of it's rudder, the sailing yacht Pulsion, believed to be a fairly recent Jeaneau J-30, was abandoned between Cocos keeling and Rodrigues, in early June. The crew were rescued by a cruising sailboat who were very fortunately nearby (SV Badoc) - well done to the Badoc crew for making that happen. Aboard Pulsion they had tried rigging a jury rudder without success and eventually had to abandon the vessel.
Vessel Dismasted / SV Silver Girl
Dismasted in heavy seas in early June, Silver Girl was able to motor onwards to Rodrigues, under difficult conditions. SV Lopto altered course to stand by them for the duration. Both vessels reached Rodrigues safely. Silver Girl was re-rigged with a new mast and rigging shipped from Australia. Our friends Ann and Chris have now sailed Silver Girl onwards and are relaxing in South Africa.
Vessel Abandoned / SV Ironhorse
After multiple system failures, including the self steering, Iron Horse was sadly abandoned in October 2015, fortunately without loss of life, between Reunion and Madagascar. Our friends and fellow OCC members Alfred and Rosemarie were rescued by cargo ship and eventually made shore in Singapore.
Vessel Aground and Abandoned / SV Ramprasad
Another OCC vessel, Ramprasad was grounded on a reef on the north west of Madagascar, 20 miles from Nosy Mitso, early in October. Crew Sam and Dow were taken ashore by local fisherman, and the vessel was abandoned as the hull was seriously breached.
Vessel Aground, Re-floated and Repaired / SV Pipistrelle
In the most bizarre of all incidents this year, the yacht Pipistrelle, unfortunately struck by lightning earlier in the season, was seriously grounded in Chagos in June. Again sailed by OCC members, she hit the reef in a period of strong winds after the (predictable) failure of a rope-on-coral "mooring". Monumental efforts by other cruisers in the area eventually re-floated the vessel and saw her safely re-anchored.
|Rudder Repair, Island Style. Note The Coconut Fiber.|
An amazing effort over many days by a large team who just happened to have the right skills and the necessary materials on hand to share. Not often you find an experienced naval architect, a professional sail maker and a boat builder on nearby boats, ready to help.
Pipistrelle eventually sailed on to the Seychelles, with further voluntary support to reach port safely. Mainstream sailing press carried a story on the incident, but with the vessel name and the names of all the volunteer participants clearly falsified-why is this? This incident does leave us wondering.....
Catamaran Collides With A Whale, Holed, Then Capsizes / SV Lama Lo
This 52ft French catamaran was holed in a collision with a whale on October 18, on passage between Durban & Cape Town. One hull sank and then the vessel capsized. Two days later the crew were rescued from their inflatable dinghy by a bulk carrier tasked to the search area.