A tornado at sea blasted a 70-foot yacht manned by 18 amateur sailors during an around-the-world yacht race, and now that the race is nearing its conclusion, set for Saturday in London, video footage of the terrifying but amazing near-disaster is being made public.
As you’ll see in the footage, taken in January from a camera fixed to the boat’s mast, the storm appears to hit out nowhere and almost capsizes the British entry in the 40,000-mile Clipper Round The World Yacht Race.
The race is intended for non-professional sailors between ages 18 and 74.
The winds slamming the yacht were estimated at 115 miles per hour and they tip the yacht on its side, immediately sending two sailors — Sarah Usher, 34, and 65-year-old Liz Richards into the raging waters of the Pacific Ocean to the north of Papua New Guinea.
The boat was about a week away from its previous stop in Brisbane, Australia, en route to Singapore.
“I remember being hit by a rush of water. I lost my balance and the force of the water just took me over the side,” said Usher. “I was shouting at my crew ‘I’m not clipped on, I’m not clipped on!’ My heart was in my mouth. It was pretty frightening.”
The entire ordeal lasted about a minute, and when the funnel cloud passed the boat, which had flipped on its side at a 90-degree angle, righted itself and the the crew members pulled Usher and Richards, both of whom were wearing life jackets, from the water.
The founder of the round-the-world yacht race, Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, said that though tornado strikes are exceedingly rare, the crew was ready, which is a testament to how well-prepared the amateur sailors are for the grueling race.
‘What this video shows is how well trained the crews are,” he said. “They’re racing along on a 70ft boat and the next thing they know they are hit by a tornado and the boat is knocked onto its side. The forces inside these funnels wind are huge but no-one was hurt, everyone knew exactly what to do.”
The race, the ninth annual edition of the event, got underway last September with 670 sailors taking part.
Watch the dramatic video and ask yourself what you would do if a tornado hit you in the middle of the ocean.