Adventurer sets sail on new challenge eight years after dramatic ocean rescue when yacht sunk
Fearless Steve Arnold is set to embark on a sailing adventure for charity, eight years after the same mission ended with his yacht sinking.
Steve, from Shifnal, is alongside best friend Toby Gold, sailing from Las Palmas in Gran Caneria to Rodney Bay in St Lucia.
The pair are among 1,200 people and 200 boats taking part in what is known as the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), which started at the weekend.
The 2700Nm trip should take about three weeks depending on the weather conditions and the duo are looking to raise fund for West Mercia Search and Rescue, with £1,700 already pledged.
"It's going to be fun but certainly challenging," said Steve. "Hopefully the wind and tide will be behind us.
"You are sailing in gale forced winds, which can be pretty cruel, leaving you facing four to six metre waves.
"So it's all about getting confidence before you go.
"I always ask, what are the three most important things before you go on a journey like this?
"And the answer is preparation, preparation, preparation.
"It's crucial that the crew are all trained to the right level."
"It's about having the right experience – I sailed around the world in 2004-05, and have done 40-50,000 miles of sailing.
"Then it's having all the right safety equipment and following the rules.
"You have to be prepared for the one-in-a-million chance of something bad happening. If you don't go prepared, that casual nature can really leave you in trouble."
Having that experience and preparation meant there was no panic for Steve, an experienced offshore sailor, when he faced his own scary moment doing this same challenge in 2015, when located around 150 miles west of Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands
His first attempt at the challenge, eight years ago, ended abruptly when the yacht he was on – a 44ft Moody Grenadier 134 ketch called The Magritte – sank just two hours after he and the crew had been dramatically rescued by SCL Basilea when the yacht began filling up with water.
"We had confidence and hadn't run out of options before we were saved," he reflects. "But it was certainly a challenging 11 hours, full of drama.
"We didn't feel scared. It was more about desperately trying to remember all the training and make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything."
Having set off, Steve and the crew spotted the floor boards were being lifted by water filling the bilges and Steve was forced to send a mayday call.
They had to wait 11 hours from the first mayday to be rescued, having to bail water out using extra pumps and buckets.
The water got to waist height in the saloon of the boat before the crew moved to the deck.
Even when their rescuers arrived, things didn't go to plan.
"To rescue us was nearly impossible," he said. "The crew of the cargo ship were not trained to rescue people from a yacht in the middle of the ocean with 4-6m swells of waves and thirty knots of wind."
A rescue boat was overwhelmed by the waves and the attempt abandoned.
When the the retrieval was complete, the Magritte had drifted 1.3 miles from the ship’s position and efforts had to be made to reconnect.
Once close enough again, it took several dramatic attempts to get a throwline to reconnect with the yacht but even then the boats were gradually separated by the forceful of waves.
Steve and the rest of the crew were eventually forced to jump for their lives onto a wet rope ladder before climbing up to safety on to the deck of the cargo ship.
"We had to leap from our deck which was about four metres below the rescue boat," Steve said. "We had to time our jump just right onto the wet ladder and then scramble up.
"There were no safety lines and had any of us missed the ladder we would have dropped into the sea and would have been killed. there was no second go.
"But we all got off and 4.30am in the morning we were sat there in safety, drinking whiskey in the officer's mess."
The dramatic incident hasn't put Steve off and he's ready to take on the challenge again for a cause close to his heart.
"West Mercia Search and Rescue is a group of 60 volunteers based in Bridgnorth," he said. "Everyone has normal day jobs but we play a keep part in helping the community.
"When the police have a vulnerable missing person, they call our coordinator, he sends us a WhatsApp message and we all go on behalf of the police and fire service to search for the missing person.
"We are part 34 lowland rescue teams – every county in the UK has got one. We map up to the West Mercia police area.
"We also do pro-active river patrols and we have to work hard on fundraising to make sure we stay operational.
"We all try to do fundraising events throughout the year and this is my major one."
To sponsor Steve and Toby, visit totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/stevetobyatlantic