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Professionalism, leadership and outstanding seamanship ensured the safe recovery of the crew of a sinking sailing vessel.
At 1332 on Friday 20th September 2019, whilst on passage across the North Atlantic, MV Maersk Montana received a distress call from the sailing vessel La Belle Vie, which reported that it was taking on water. It rapidly became clear that the vessel was sinking and would have to be abandoned. Maersk Montana immediately diverted at high speed to provide assistance.
Within a few short hours the Maersk Montana, commanded by Captain Richard Hoey, had closed on the last reported position and located the sailing vessel.
Noting the very significant challenge of bringing a 51,000 tonne, high sided container vessel alongside a stricken yacht in Force 8 conditions, Captain Hoey quickly established a plan. Noting that ship handling was likely to be anything but graceful in the prevailing conditions, he positioned his vessel upwind of La Belle Via, and skilfully set his speed such to enable him close on the stricken vessel, whilst keeping his speed low enough to be able to rapidly run the engine astern. Expertly using a combination of power and drift the Captain, aided by multiple members of his crew acting as lookouts, positioned his vessel close enough to La Belle Vie to deploy a messenger line. This enabled the well drilled and highly skilled crew to start the process of drawing the yacht alongside and securing it to the side of the ship.
Once safely alongside the Captain gave direction to scuttle the sailing vessel, before safely recovering the crew on board via a pilot ladder.
Whilst the above rescue lasted only a few hours from start to finish, it was only made possible by a vast amount of experience of both crew management and ship handling. As such the Lady Swaythling Trophy for 2020 is presented to Capt Richard Hoey, Captain of MV Maersk Montana, for his outstanding seamanship during the rescue of the crew of the sailing vessel La Belle Vie.