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Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever was an RTÉ reality TV show meant to have been broadcast over eight weeks starting on 3 June 2003. It consisted of a group of 10 contestants chosen specially for the show, most of whom had no sailing experience (though they had received a quick course in sailing technique prior to setting sail), who were to be put on the 90 foot (27.4 metre), two-masted schooner with a professional crew of two. The wind-powered sailing ship would then sail around the Irish coast. Each week one contestant was scheduled to quite literally "walk the plank" after being voted off the ship by TV viewers. The final surviving contestant was to win one hundred thousand euro.

Disaster struck however two weeks into the broadcast, when on 13 June 2003 the ship ran aground off Tory Island, a small island off the North-west coat of Ireland. All the 9 remaining contestants1 and two crew were rescued, but the wooden sailing ship broke up on the rocks. Ironically the accident was not filmed by the RTÉ film crew; they had left the ship some hours earlier to catch some sleep after 15 hours continuous filming. The incident was however filmed by a local man who happened to have been recording the schooner's movements at the moment she ran aground. The Irish media made much tongue-in-cheek mention of the fact that the disaster occurred on Friday the 13th, a date often linked to supposed curses and disasters and also the fact that the ship's name had been changed for the programme: sailing lore suggests that any ship which it renamed prior to setting sail with meet with disaster.

The Irish Department of the Marine has refused to issue a licence for a replacement ship until a full investigation into the disaster takes place, including into allegations made in Irish Sunday newspapers on the 15 June that at the moment of the incident the ship was being steered by the contestants, not the ship's captain, and that their inexperience led them to steer it too close to the Tory Island coastline.

RTÉ and the programme makers, Coco TV, announced that all money earned from phone-in votes in the previous week (and which due to the disaster would not now lead to some contestant leaving the ship on 16 June as planned), would be donated to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution[?], which supplies lifeboat coverage around the Irish coast.

RTÉ has indicated that it is up to the contestants to decide whether to continue the competition on a new ship, should one become available and get a licence. The contestants on their return to Dublin on 15 June 2003 gave no indication as to whether they wished to continue the competition.

Footnote

1 One contestant of the original ten had already 'walked the plank' the previous week.

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