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Killer Squall Hit TV Sailing Ship, Inquiry Told

October 15, 1985 GMT

PLYMOUTH, England (AP) _ A sudden hurricane-strength squall hit the sailing ship Marques with such ferocity during a 1984 race off Bermuda that the vessel sank in less than two minutes, killing 19 people, a British official told an inquiry Monday.

John Reeder, spokesman for the British Department of Transport, told the inquiry into the June 1984 sinking of the British-registered vessel that those below deck in their bunks had no chance of escaping.

The dead included the American skipper Stuart Finlay, 42, his Antiguan wife and their 16-month-old baby, along with six other Americans, four Britons, two Canadians and four Antiguan crew members.

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The 67-year-old three-masted vessel, which had appeared in three British television series, encountered an ″awkward sea″ in the Bermuda-to-Nova Scotia Tall Ships Race, Reeder said.

″The vessel was struck by a sudden, violent squall,″ he said. ″None of the survivors had seen any sign of the squall approaching.″

Reeder said water entered through the main gangway and probably through the ventilators and the forward hatch. Within a few seconds, the 117-foot ship began to sink by the bow.

Nine survivors were rescued by a Polish ship.

After the tragedy, American lawyer Douglas Skinner issued a negligence claim against the vessel’s owners and her operators, The China Clipper Society. He claimed the Marques capsized because she had been fitted with the wrong sails and a phony deck for her role in the television series, ″The Voyage of Charles Darwin.″