Yacht skipper missing after falling overboard off Cape coast

An extensive search was carried out overnight for the missing skipper of a yacht who fell overboard when the vessel was struck by a wave during a race off the Cape coast.

A distress call from the yacht‚ Silver Girl‚ sailing in the Mossel Bay yacht race‚ from Simonstown to Mossel Bay‚ was intercepted by Telkom Maritime Radio Services on Thursday at 7.30pm. Its crew reported that their skipper‚ Melvin Rautenbach‚ had fallen overboard. The incident happened between Gansbaai and Agulhas‚ about 10 nautical miles off-shore.

The distress call was relayed to vessels in the area‚ setting in motion a rescue attempt.

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) sea-rescue craft South Star and Spirit of Agulhas were launched and began an extensive search for the missing sailor in rough‚ windy conditions‚ into the early hours of Friday morning.

Deon Langenhoven‚ NSRI station commander at Hermanus‚ said: “Despite an extensive search‚ no sign of the missing skipper has been found. Sea conditions grew increasingly unfavourable as the search progressed and sea swells exceeded six metres.

“Royal Cape Yacht Club (RCYC) members are assisting with the support of Melvin’s wife‚ Shama Nathoo‚ at her home in Cape Town.”

Silver Girl‚ which suffered a damaged tiller arm and failing battery power‚ was being towed to Hermanus harbour.

The search was suspended in the early hours of Friday morning. However‚ police divers and NSRI air sea rescue were placed on alert‚ while vessels in the area were advised to keep watch for the missing skipper.

“NSRI‚ Maritime Authorities‚ the MBR2018 (Mossel Bay yacht race) committee and fellow race yacht crews’ thoughts are with the family of the missing sailor in this difficult time‚” said Langenhoven.

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