Lost racing yacht returns from the deep

The Infiniti 52, Tulikettu, which was believed to have sunk in the North Atlantic in April has been found and returned safely to shore.

The yacht was sailing from Cascais, Portugal back to the team base in Gosport, UK, when it collided with an unidentified floating object (UFO) causing an uncontrolled leak. Although efforts were made by the crew to stem the inflow of water, when the rescue ship arrived it was uncertain whether the repairs made would work and, with weather conditions worsening, the decision was taken to abandon the boat. All four crew members were unhurt during the incident.

A high-powered tug and spotter plane were sent to search for the vessel, but the search was called off after a week.

However, on the 23 May Tulikettu was spotted by a passing yacht and the crew contacted the Tulikettu’s social media via private message. When the tip proved to be reliable, the search and rescue operation was immediately restarted. After dozens of flight hours, countless drift calculations, and hundreds of nautical miles of searching by salvage boats, Tulikettu was found on June 4, approximately 100 nautical miles west of Cape Saint Vincent and was towed to the port of Portimão on June 5.

“It was an incredible feeling when we found the boat six and a half weeks after it disappeared,” says Arto Linnervuo, skipper and owner of Tulikettu Racing Team. “Here I am, standing on the deck of the boat. The story had a happy ending after all. Saturday was one of the happiest days of my life. There was an incredible rescue operation supporting this effort, which involved more than a dozen top professionals from Finland, England, Portugal, Spain and the United States. I am especially proud that the rescue operation was led by my own Tulikettu Racing team flown in to assist on the spot.”

Linnervuo, who was on the spotter plane, made the final sighting that led to the ultimate rescue of the boat. He transmitted the position from the plane to the tugboat at sea using a VHF radio. The rescue vessel had to be close to the latest sighting to ensure a safe recovery, because Tulikettu was drifting very unpredictably while unattended.

“Externally, the boat showed no damage, and the mast was upright. It shows how well these boats are designed and built. The extent of the damage will become clear in time,” adds Linnervuo.

After refurbishment and repair, Tulikettu, which was due to take part in the world’s largest offshore sailing competitions, is expected to resume her ambitious racing schedule. 

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