The yacht 'Lejos' on a solo voyage from Mar del Plata to Cape Town sank 260 miles NW of Tristan. The sailor was rescued.

Yacht 'Lejos' Sinks NW of Tristan

Edited from reports from Sergio Pianciola and the Armada Nacional del Uruguay

We received an email message on the 16th March 2017 from Sergio Pianciola of Argentina, asking islanders to look out for the yacht 'Lejos' that was due to pass to the north of Tristan during a solo voyage from Mar del Plata to Cape Town. The yacht was not sighted, but on the 20th March we received another message from Sergio to say that the yacht had been shipwrecked 260 nautical miles (480km) north west of Tristan, although its yachtsman had been rescued in good health. The following story has been pieced together from Sergio's Facebook posts and reports from the Uruguayan Navy.

The yacht 'Lejos' setting out from Mar del Plata, Argentina. The interior of the yacht 'Lejos'.
The yacht 'Lejos' setting out from Mar del Plata, Argentina. The interior of the yacht 'Lejos'.

The 'Lejos' was an 8 metre two masted wooden yacht belonging to Gabriel Simonini (53) of Mar del Plata, Argentina. It had been his lifelong ambition to sail single handed across the South Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa, and his plan became reality on the 8th February when he set sail from his home port. His yachting friends, including Sergio, saw him on his way. His 'Spot' satellite tracker enabled them to follow his progress, and he averaged about 100km per day. Sergio contacted us when he lost track of the yacht, for the reasons that later emerged.

On the 15th March, however, Gabriel sent a distress signal to the International Emergency Response Coordination Center, based in the USA, which passed the call on to the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre of the Uruguayan Navy. The US Naval Station Norfolk provided information on the ships that were in the vicinity of the yacht, the nearest being the merchant vessel 'Harvest Sun', and the Uruguayan Navy directed her to intercept the yacht. After receiving a new request for help from the 'Lejos', saying that the volume of water had increased and the boat was sinking, 'Harvest Sun' was instructed to increase speed to arrive before the boat sank. She arrived in time to rescue Gabriel, who was reported to be in good health. The 'Lejos' then sank.

The 'Harvest Sun' is a bulk carrier registered in the Marshall Islands and was en route from Beira, Mozambique to Arroyo Seco, Rosario, Argentina. The rescue took place 3,600km from Montevideo. As the vessel approached the estuary of the Rio de la Plata, Gabriel was transferred to the Uruguayan minesweeper 'ROU 31 Temerario', and he disembarked at Montevideo on the 23rd March.

Lone yachtsman Gabriel Simonini.
Lone yachtsman Gabriel Simonini. The rescued Gabriel disembarks from the 'Temerario' in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Although Tristan da Cunha was not involved in this particular rescue, the island has a long history of helping mariners in distress. It should be noted, however, that unless there happen to be visiting ships, its search and rescue facilities are limited to short range inshore vessels, and these cannot be launched in bad sea conditions.