In a huge blow to Irish sail training, the national vessel Asgard II has sunk off the French coast, about 20 miles southwest of Belle-Île-en-Mer near La Rochelle. The crew of the brigantine sent out several distress signals on the night of 10 September after it began taking on water.
THE 5 crew and 20 trainees had earlier abandoned the vessel Tin two lifeboats in the early hours of the morning after she started taking water. The Asgard was heading from the Cornish port of Falmouth to La Rochelle in France or some minor maintenance.
The alarm was raised and the distress signal was picked up by the UK Marine Coastguard at Kinloss in Scotland.
The Iirsh Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) will be co-operating with its French counterpart on the inquiry into the sinking and interviews will be held with the ship's master, crew and trainees. The crew of the Asgard II were rescued by a French coastguard vessel, which filmed the dramatic events and taken to Belle Ile in the Bay of Biscay where they were described as safe and well and "in good spirits".
The ship's captain Colm Newport said he had no idea what had happened to the ship, but that it had suffered a "severe ingress" of water at about 3am "ship's time" which contributed to critical instability. The crew and trainees were evacuated in an "orderly fashion" and were off the vessel in "four to five minutes", he said.
Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Newport said it had been a "traumatic" experience for those involved, but they were now being looked after very well in a hotel and were in touch with their families back in Ireland.nAsked if he had any idea whether the ship had hit something that had resulted in its sinking, he said he had "no idea" and that it would have to be investigated.
"It would be very foolish of me to speculate on this matter."
Asgard ll was built and launched in Arklow, Co Wicklow in 1981 by the late former taoiseach Charles Haughey. The Old Bog Cabin points out that Asgard II took part in the Tall Ships Race of 1991 but she has been a regular visitor to the port
since she went into service after completion in 1981. It was at the
time of the Tall Ships race that the Cork singer / songwriter Jimmy
Crowley wrote the song "My Love is a Tall Ship" dedicated to the
The name "Asgard" resonates through Irish history. The original Asgard, owned by Erskine Childers (later President of Ireland) was used in the Howth gun-running incident of 1914 in which German guns were imported into Ireland for use in the uprising which eventually took place in 1916. The first Asgard (from the Norse name for the "home of the gods") sailed to Hamburg with Childers, his wife Mary and two others to to collect the guns which were landed in Howth in July 1914.
In 1968 the Asgard I was bought by the Irish government who established the Coiste an Asgard as a new sail-training authority and the ship was used for training young people in navigation and seamanship until it was retired and replaced by Asgard II. The first Asgard is now being restored but it is unlikely it will ever take to sea again.
Asgard II, a 106 foot brigantine, was built by Tyrell's Boatyard of Arklow, County Wicklow, under the personal supervision of designer, the late Jack Tyrell.
The loss of the Asgard is a huge blow to Ireland, not just because of her importance in sail-training but as a symbol of this country and the good work she has done in promoting tourism she has also been involved in work with a social element along with involvement in research and environment.
It is of course very good news that the crew of Asgard II are safe. We still don't know if there is any possiblity of raising the vessel. That will, no doubt emerge in time.
Here is the official French account of the rescue:
L'épave de la goélette Asgard 2 qui flottait entre deux eaux depuis son naufrage ce matin au large de Belle-Ile, a disparu à la vue et au radar vers 08h30, laissant supposer qu'elle avait sombré.
Le patrouilleur des douanes Kermorvan s'est rendu cet après-midi sur la zone de naufrage pour une investigation. Il a constaté le naufrage de la goélette, dont la position sur le fond a été vérifiée avec le concours d'un chalutier. Le Kermorvan a ensuite récupéré les radeaux de survie et un morceau de mât de l'Asgard 2. Après cette opération, il a mis le cap sur le Palais (Belle-Ile) pour remettre ces éléments aux enquêteurs de la gendarmerie maritime.
Ce mouvement clôt l'opération de sauvetage