The crew swam from the sinking ship as Heptarchy, a well-known feature among Olhão’s seagoing community, slid beneath the waters off Farol island in the Ria Formosa.
Returning from a six week round trip from the Algarve to the Balearic islands and back, with a stop in Cartagena, Múrcia, due to foul weather, Heptarchy was close to completing its first voyage after a year-long refit in an Olhão shipyard.
Skippered by well-known professional British yachtswoman alongside two highly experienced crew, Heptarchy ran into trouble and her skipper managed to send an SOS that was picked up by the Coordination Centre for Maritime Search and Rescue in Lisbon which requested the Captain of the Port of Olhão to send a lifeboat and have an ambulance crew stand by at the dockside.
When the lifeboat arrived at the sunken yacht, the crew already had been lifted from the water; one by a local fishermen, one by a water taxi and the last by a yacht.
All three were transferred to shore by lifeboat for assessment with one crew member taken to Faro hospital with symptoms of hypothermia, and an arm injury caused by a rope.
Heptarchy now lies to the side of a busy Ria Formosa shipping channel, with her masts still clearly visible even at at high tide but now marked by two yellow buoys and lights to warn shipping.
Divers from local fishing company Tunipex inspected the boat with some difficulty and set up the warning signs under the instruction of the Maritime Police whose officers have been interviewing the skipper and crew to see what happened and whether the sinking involved any other ship or object.
Reports of a Spanish vessel causing Heptarchy to take evasive action resulting in her hitting a buoy are as yet unconfirmed.