Sir Richard Branson's superyacht Necker Belle helps deliver aid to St Maarten

17 November 2014

The skipper and crew of Sir Richard Branson’s catamaran superyacht Necker Belle stepped in to help deliver aid to St Maarten following Hurricane Gonzalo.

Necker Belle partnered with charity YachtAid Global after the hurricane caught the Caribbean island unawares in October, killing one person and causing widespread damage. A total of 37 boats were sunk or written off.

Hearing of the devastation, YachtAid Global volunteer Dhardra Blake sought out yachts at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show would be heading south after the show and could assist in delivering much needed supplies to St Maarten or Antigua.

“YAG’s mission simply is to seek out and find like-minded captains and owners to participate in our humanitarian efforts,” said Blake. “There are so many yachts which travel close to areas in need. It’s our suggestion to deploy private yachts as a transport vehicle for donated aid and relief supplies. With YachtAid Global assisting in disaster relief, literally any region is accessible.”

A series of marine industry connections made the venture possible, with Jessica Price from H20 Yachtwear putting YachtAid Global in touch with Captain Beez Evans of the Necker Belle. He was keen to help, but with a short turnaround time prior to the cat’s departure from Rybovich Superyacht Marina, the aid team needed to move fast.

Relief supplies were solicited from local yachting industry firms including Yacht Chandlers, Medical Offshore Support Limited, MedAire and The Ditch Kit. Yacht Chandlers took care of transferring the provisions to the superyacht, which was berthed in West Palm Beach. IGY Marinas in St Maarten donated a slip for the offloading of the aid, as well as an overnight stay for the crew.

“Working with YAG on disaster relief is a welcome opportunity for us and a meaningful philanthropic endeavor,” said Captain Evans.

The people of St Maarten were expecting a tropical storm and received notice the storm had grown into a hurricane only 30 minutes prior to landfall. With very little preparation time, residents could not put proper protection in place as the storm swept over the island.

Mark Drewelow, Founder of YachtAid Global, appealed for help from other skippers and owners. “We are still seeking more yachts to deliver needed supplies to Antigua which was also affected by Hurricane Gonzalo,” he said, “and would like to assist the island in preparation for the 2014 Antigua Charter Showwhich opens on 5 December.”

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