Agonising turn of events as hull of missing catamaran is lost again

1 February 2016 • Written by Simon Hardie

The capsized hulls of a catamaran, believed to be the Sunsail Leopard 44 that went missing in January 2016 with three crew on board, has been lost during a salvage attempt. After more than a year at sea the upturned yacht was sighted off the coast of Cape Town, and the families of the missing crew were hoping the salvage would provide closure. But despite the best efforts of search teams the yacht has disappeared again.

This news adds yet another agonising twist to the story of the 13.5 metre catamaran that went missing in the Indian Ocean . Anthony Murray, 58, Reginald Robertson, 59, and Jaryd Payne, 20, set off in December 2014 to deliver the yacht from South Africa to Thailand, but never arrived in Phuket.

Photos taken by the South African National Sea Rescue Institute show divers attempting to identify the upturned yacht

The overturned hulls of the catamaran were spotted on January 18 by a Brazilian navy ship and an operational team was set up to try and recover the vessel. The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Agulhas duty crew managed to investigate the upturned vessel and attach a tracker.

The Peridot tugboat was then sent out, and began to tow the catamaran in the direction of Cape Town, but on January 26 the Peridot lost the tow and the tracker stopped working. After several days of searching by sea and air, the search effort by the local authorities has been called off.

Sunsail released a statement today (February 1) that said "subject to suitable weather conditions, we will be carrying out a further air search today for the overturned yacht". The statement went on to say that Sunsail is "continuing to liaise with the local authorities" and is "happy to organise a private meeting" with the families.

The family of the missing crew members have passionately campaigned for the missing yacht to be found over the past year. When the yacht first disappeared the emergency services were unable to launch an official search because the emergency locator beacon never went off. But in March   29,000 people joined the search through satellite images for a possible life raft.

This photo taken by the NSRI appears to show sunsail markings on the bow of the catamaran. Sunsail has not confirmed that this is the missing catamaran but is liaising with NRSI to try and confirm identification

Supporters of the search have kept a Facebook page, which has nearly 5,000 members, and the family are still asking for support to find and salvage the vessel so they can try to discover the truth of what happened.

“We have so many unanswered questions and are as confused as you about the salvage operation — and whether the hull broke up and sank or if she is still adrift,” said Storme Robertson, a representative of the group.

“Given the difficulty in spotting the hull in this condition from another boat, the master of the Peridot (Captain Duse) has recommended an aerial search as the best chance of finding the drifting hull.”

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