Asian Tsunami Heros

Monday, January 10, 2005

Quality seamanship saves nephew of yachtsman Peter Blake in tsunami

AUCKLAND : A remarkable display of seamanship saved a relative of round-the-world yachting legend and environmentalist Sir Peter Blake in the Asian tsunami, according to a report Saturday.

Philip Blake, who learned to sail under the guidance of his famous New Zealand relative, a two-time winner of the America's Cup, survived by driving his 36 feet (11 metre) motor yacht Lady Olivia directly into the wave's path.

"We were so fortunate," he told the Weekend Herald of his encounter with a wall of water six metres high (9.9 feet).

As manager and chief sailing instructor at Raffles Marina in Singapore, he was leading a convoy of six motor yachts up Malaysia's west coast to the Thai island of Phuket.

Five of the boats had moored at Chalong Bay in southern Phuket and Blake had just cast off to collect a passenger at Chalong's concrete jetty when he first saw the wave spanning the kilometre width of the bay's southwest entrance.

For a second, he thought it was wake from a huge ship. Then he looked at the clear sky and calm sea and "it was just flat water all the way out to this thing."

He realised then that it was a tsunami and radioed frantically to alert the other yachts.

Blake said he knew his only option was to keep the bow to the tsunami and power over the looming wave.

If the Lady Olivia went sideways into it, it would capsize; if it ended up stern to the wave, the water could surge through the cabin and sink the boat in seconds.

When the tsunami was about 100 metres away and the sea around the boat was being sucked out, Blake said he put the engine into reverse to keep the Lady Olivia from being pulled out too.

When the wave was just 20 metres away, he slammed the engine into forward, powering the yacht up and over it.

"The adrenaline's surging. I'm whooping like a cowboy," he recalled.

The elation turned to dismay when he saw two more giant waves on the other side.

"That's when I went, uh-oh, this is going to hurt."

But the boat survived unscathed, as did the other boats in the convoy.



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