Sailing at the earthquake’s epicentre

Posted: March 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

Class40 skipper, Felipe Cubillos, is helping bring vital materials and food to the disaster region in the recent 8.8-magnituide earthquake’s epicentre.

“The scene is devastating,” Cubillos reports from the town of Iloca, 130 miles south-west of Santiago. “The locals tell us that the tidal wave caused far more damage than the earthquake and, frankly, any discussion about whether the wave classifies as a Tsunami is anecdotal at this point,” he comments. “They say that the wave arrived about eight minutes after the earthquake and it was impossible to react in time. I thought I’d seen the power of the sea when racing through the Southern Ocean, but this is something entirely different.”

The Chilean skipper and a team of volunteers have been in the region for three days. “In the town, the open spaces where the children used to play are now a mass of rubble,” continues Cubillos. “It is going to be some time before they return, but even a quick glance at the faces of the local people shows a mixed expression of incredulity, sadness, pride and hope. They know that together we can start straightening things out.”

For Cubillos and the team, the immediate priority is to provide shelter. “Thousands of people have lost everything and now sleep in the hills and many of them don’t even have a blanket to keep them warm,” he explains. The weather conditions in the region may help relief work as no rain is forecast for the next seven days, although Cubillos reports that an icy southern wind is causing temperatures to drop below freezing during the night.

“In a crisis there are always heroes and, as usual, these individuals seek neither fame nor recognition, but I must tell you of one person in particular,” says the Chilean skipper. “His name is Cristian and he runs a company, Tecnofast, which supplies and constructs modular structures and shelters for use in remote places like mining or drilling installations.” Cristian followed and supported Cubillos, his co-skipper, José Muñoz, and Class40 Desafio Cabo de Hornos throughout the 2008-09 Portimão Global Ocean Race and read of the relief work that Cubillos is undertaking. “Two days ago, he was in Miami,” continues Cubillos, “but today he is arriving with equipment and technicians to provide shelter for 500 people, including four temporary, tented clinics that will help support the local hospitals.” Cubillos estimates that within a few days, the emergency buildings and medical centres will be fully operational.

However, the longer-term picture in the region looks bleak. “The second problem that we have is that around 350 fishing boats with all their gear and engines have been wrecked,” continues Cubillos. “These boats cost around US$20,000 and as the fishermen cannot salvage them, they are unable to generate any income for their families.” There appears to be no immediate solution: “Today I have tried to understand the problem and I confess that the situation is serious,” he admits. “In Chile, we have the ability to produce no more than 40 new boats per month and there certainly aren’t enough engines in stock. Where are we going to construct all these boats and obtain all these motors?” asks Cubillos. “I can assure you that these seafaring entrepreneurs who risk their lives every day when they head out to sea and fish don’t want a hand-out or gift. They only want support to help overcome the magnitude of the problem that has swept over them.”

Felipe Cubillos has written a book and photographic record – ‘Sueños de Alta Mar’ (Dreams of the High Seas) – about the double-handed, Portimão Global Ocean Race circumnavigation onboard Class40 Desafio Cabo de Hornos and is donating all proceeds to help relief work in Chile. An official book launch was originally planned for mid-March, but those wishing to pre-order the Spanish-language ‘Sueños de Alta Mar’ and help fund vital relief work can contact Felipe at

  1. nancy408 says:

    I hope Chile will be able to recover quickly and the death toll doesn’t rise to high I can’t believe, another huge earthquake we need to pray for everyone.
    You can send help, aide through any of your favorite charities find info on
    Donations of clean water, food, clothing and temp shelters. We can make a difference!
    we will !

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