French sailor rescued by Russian Navy arrives in Cape Town

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A French national rescued in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean by a Russian Navy tanker heading for Exercise Mosi II with South Africa, has safely arrived in Cape Town, disembarking on Friday 17 February.

The medium sea tanker Kama is supporting the frigate Admiral Gorshkov on a long-distance naval deployment in the Atlantic Ocean. Overshadowed by the controversy related to the participation of the Admiral Gorshkov in joint naval exercises between South Africa, Russia and China off Richard’s Bay, Kwa-Zulu Natal later this week (Exercise Mosi II), Kama came to the rescue of Lucas Monteux, a French citizen who was sailing solo across the Atlantic together with his dog.

With his yacht having suffered damage to its steering equipment and flooding of the vessel in a storm in the last week of January, Monteux was unable to fix his yacht and sent out a distress call. However, running out of power, he tried for two days to attract attention. Deviating from its route, the tanker ‘Kama’ was dispatched to investigate the call.

Although Kama could pick up the signal, the French sailor could not transmit his coordinates due to the low power of his radio. Monteux then fired a signal flare to disclose his location and was found and rescued by the tanker. A boarding team went aboard the yacht to get Monteux and his dog, together with his personal belongings, on board the Russian tanker and provided first aid.

Having docked in Cape Town, the French sailor and his dog were safely handed over to the representatives of the French Consulate General.

“I hadn’t seen a signal on my AIS for days, but when I looked at it just before sleep, in the middle of no man’s land I saw the Kama. I called them on the emergency radio channel and they immediately asked for my position. I knew they could not see me on radar or AIS, so I launched a safety rocket – a parachute rocket – and two minutes later I saw the tanker Kama, changing its course to rescue me,” Monteux said.

The yacht was left to drift in the ocean, but was expected to shortly sink.

Russian Navy frigate Admiral Gorshkov, together with tanker Kama, departed the Russian port of Sevromorsk in Northern Russia on 4 January and arrived in Cape Town on Monday 13 February to replenish supplies. She thereafter departed on 15 February for Durban, whilst Kama only arrived in Cape Town on 17 February. She left for Richard’s Bay on Sunday 19 February.

Admiral Gorshkov is armed with the 3M22 Zirkon hypersonic and Kalibr-NK cruise missiles, air defence systems, torpedoes, a 130 mm cannon and other weapon systems. Whilst the Russian news agency TASS stated that the new Zirkon hypersonic missile would be fired during Exercise Mosi II, the South African National Defence Force has subsequently denied that any missile firings will take place during the exercise, which is scheduled to run from 17 to 27 February.

China’s contribution to Mosi II is the guided missile destroyer Huainan, the guided missile frigate Rizhao and the supply ship Kekexilihu. They arrived in Richards Bay on 19 February. South Africa will have the frigate SAS Mendi, inshore patrol vessel King Sekhukhune I, and hydrographic survey vessel SAS Protea available for Exercise Mosi II.