It is with great sadness that I report the Asgard II has sunk twenty miles off the coast of France in the Bay of Biscay. To the best of my knowledge, she was travelling for minor maintenance.
The distress call went out at c0230 this morning (GMT) and by 0730 she was only up to her deck in water. I know the captain personally, but I'm sure anyone can imagine how sickening it must have been for him to watch her go down. It is a sail training vessel and a lot of trainees would have been aboard. Thankfully, both crew and trainees got off safely. (5 crew and 20 trainees)
The boat was built with teaching people to sail in mind and as such was a very sturdy boat and no expense was spared with her maintenance. In fact, she was only in port for maintenance about a month ago. (Her home port is where I live). It's hard to imagine how she went down. A lot of love went into building her and every single plank was hand chosen from the best Irish oak. It must have been a heart wrenching decision for the captain to abandon ship.
It is the history and significance of the ship that makes this worse, in my opinion. The original "Asgard" was a private yacht. In 1914 a rebellion against the British was held in Dublin. The guns were supplied for this in what is known as a "Gun Running". On that morning, the Asgard was waiting, hidden behind Lambay Island with guns on board. It then made a very risky sail into Howth Harbour with her precious cargo. The weapons were then "run" into Dublin city centre. For a nation oppressed for 800 years, this was a godsend. I'm sure you can understand how the Asgard would, as such, hold a special place in the heart of all Irish people. The Asgard II was then commissioned as a vessel to teach people from 16 up to sail.
She is and was an extremely beautiful vessel and it is a great regret that I never applied to sail on her. Hopefully she is in shallow enough water to be salvaged (20 miles off the coast sounds promising, as the oceanic shelf is very far out in the Bay of Biscay). Currently one of our naval vessels, L.E. Roisin, is on her way to the scene, if not already there. It would be terrible to see our national vessel taken from us due to someone else salvaging her first. An interesting point is that Asgard II is officially owned by the Department of Defence.
Such a pity to see this happen to such a beautiful ship.