Interview by Emma Bullimore, BBS Sounds 06/06/20, with Billy Brannan, single-handed sailor whose yacht Helena was dismasted 500 miles short of home.
Billy Brannan was solo sailing his Vancouver 34 yacht Helena back to the United Kingdom from Marigot Bay in the Caribbean when Helena was rolled and dismasted in storm force conditions and heavy seas 500 nautical miles South West of Lizard Point in Cornwall. He managed to cut away the rig in the morning and got under way with engine and autopilot.
He set his EPIRB off at 12:20 am on Friday 22 May as he was running low on fuel. A French maritime patrol aircraft rendezvoused with him and relayed his request for fuel. Seaways Reymar, a 229-metre oil tanker, diverted to the stricken yacht and in challenging conditions 24-hours later passed enough fuel to Helena to enable her to limp into port. Unfortunately, Helena then suffered engine failure and Billy had to abandon ship and transfer to Seaways Reymar. The most frightening part of the venture, according to Billy, was climbing the swinging ladder up to the deck of the tanker in 3 to 4-metre swells.
As luck would have it, Seaways Reymar was headed not to the UK but to the United States. He then had to find his way home from there, having lost nearly everything he owned on Helena.
This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.
by Rachelle Turk