Sharks repeatedly attack yacht off Australian coast, forcing sailors to abandon damaged vessel


Three sailors have been rescued after abandoning ship in Australian waters, after multiple shark attacks damaged their vessel.

On Wednesday (6 September 2023), the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) confirmed that both the hulls of the catamaran, located in the Coral Sea near Cairns, were damaged after “several shark attacks.”

Satellite footage and images shared by Amsa show that a large area of the yacht’s stern was ripped apart.

Amsa responded to an alert from a Russian-registered emergency position-indicating radio beacon at around 1:30am AEST. The distress call came from the nine-metre inflatable catamaran Tion, which had three people aboard.

Amsa dispatched an aircraft to the scene and secured the assistance of a vehicle carrier in the area named Dugong Ace.

In a statement, Amsa confirms the trio had set off from Vanuatu, in the South Pacific, and were en route to Cairns in Queensland, Australia, when the incident occurred. The yacht was located about 835km (519 miles) southeast of Cairns in the Coral Sea when rescue teams responded to the emergency.

Tion was reportedly a Russian-registered vessel. The Russian Geographic Society has confirmed the catamaran was part of a round-the-world expedition, according to ABC News.

The Russian Geographic Society spokesperson says the expedition is commemorating two milestones: the bicentennial celebration of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian explorers, and the 250th anniversary of the birth of explorer Adam Johann von Kruzenstern.

Tion and Dugong Ace
Tion and Dugong Ace

Local reports state that the expedition originally left St Petersburg on 1 July 2021, with the goal of setting a record for the longest cruising distance covered on a frame-inflatable sailing trimaran, according to the Independent.

However, the sailors were rescued from the first trimaran, named Russian Ocean Way, off the coast of Chile in March. Tion is the second vessel of the expedition, and it was launched in April.

It is reported that Tion was also punctured by sharks in Tahiti in June.

The three passengers – comprising two Russians identified as Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Beryozkin, and French citizen Vincent Thomas Garate Etienne – are scheduled to reach Brisbane on Thursday.

ABC quotes Joseph Zeller, an Amsa responder, as saying: “The sailors were very lucky because they had an emergency distress beacon… which enabled us to tell the most appropriate and fastest response to rescue them”.

He adds: “They were very well prepared, they were calm, but of course, they were elated to be rescued.”

Images courtesy of Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

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