A 10-Meter Sailboat Collided With French Charles de Gaulle Aircraft Carrier Off Toulon

Charles de Gaulle collision
File photo of the Charles de Gaulle, the flagship of the French Navy. In the box, the sailboat involved in the collision with the aircraft carrier on Nov. 12, 2021. (Image credit: Marine Nationale)

No injuries were reported after a sailboat collided with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier training off Toulon.

On Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, at around 7.30 AM LT, a 10-meter sailboat flying the Polish flag collided with the Marine Nationale (French Navy) aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle at around 40 nautical miles (70 km) to the southeast of the Hyères islands, the Maritime Prefecture of the Mediterranean announced. No injuries were reported, with material consequences only for the sailboat, that was dismasted.

The incident occurred as the flagship of the French Navy was conducting training activities off Toulon. “The Charles de Gaulle belatedly detected a sailboat of around ten meters at a very short distance, shortly before 07:30,” the report of the French authorities say. “Despite an emergency maneuver to avoid this sailboat and in the absence of its reaction, a collision occurred around 07:30 between the sailboat and the hull of the Charles de Gaulle.”

Immediately after the collision, the Charles de Gaulle started several actions to assess the status of the sailboat and its crew and to rescue them: radio contact was established with the skipper and an assistance team was launched.

The only person aboard the sailboat, the skipper, was unharmed; the sailboat’s hull was intact and the main damage to the small vessel was the loss of its mast.

Two Charles de Gaulle boats were used to secure the sailboat and prepare for towing, in difficult weather conditions (sea state 4, 25 knots of wind).

“At the same time, the Mediterranean operations center (COM) located at the maritime prefecture of the Mediterranean in Toulon, ordered the diversion of the chartered tug VN Rebel , in order to organize the towing of the sailboat to the port of Hyères. Carried out in conjunction with the Mediterranean Regional Operational Surveillance and Rescue Center (CROSS), the objective of this assistance operation, with the agreement of the owner of the sailboat, is to repatriate it to a port where it can deal with its damage. The actual towing of the sailboat began around 11:00 am, and its arrival at the port of Hyères is scheduled for around 6:00 PM.”

A technical investigation is underway, as always happens after a sea incident involving a French Navy vessel; however, the collision is not going to affect the training activities of the Charles de Gaulle, the Maritime Prefecture of the Mediterranean said.

The Charles de Gaulle and its carrier strike group returned to its homeport at Toulon after a nearly 4-month deployment last June.

Started on Feb. 21, 2021, the “Clemenceau 21” mission saw the French carrier strike group sail approximately 27,000 nautical miles between the Mediterranean, Red Sea, the Horn of Africa and Persian Gulf, support, under national command, also Operation Inherent Resolve and Chammal (the French military operation in Iraq and Syria launched in September 2014), and cooperate with several Allied and partner nations, including the British carrier strike group as part of the “Gallic Strike” Exercise in the Mediterranean Sea.

After returning from the deployment, the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle undertook a 3-month maintenance period and returned to service late in September. It will be involved in the high-intensity exercise Polaris in the next weeks.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.