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Bronze Medal presented to Islay coxswain for saving a sailor's life

Lifeboats News Release

The Coxswain of Islay lifeboat in the Hebrides and his volunteer crew have been given awards after saving a yachtsman’s life during a storm.

RNLI chief executive Paul Boissier with Islay lifeboat crew and two crew from the Deep Energy pipelay vessel

RNLI/Richard Smith

RNLI chief executive Paul Boissier with Islay lifeboat crew and two crew from the Deep Energy pipelay vessel

Coxswain David MacLellan (46) was given the RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry – one of the charity’s highest accolades – for his display of great skill and seamanship in an extremely arduous service.

The presentation was made in front of more than 120 people at Bowmore Village Hall, Islay, on Saturday 25 March.

The RNLI’s Chief Executive Paul Boissier, who handed over the award, said, ‘The medal is awarded in recognition of your personal courage, your leadership and remarkable seamanship on that night. You fully deserve this medal and I know you will wear it with enormous pride for years to come.’

He added that being an RNLI crewman is not an easy job – ‘It calls you out at all hours of the day and night, you deal with the elements at the most beautiful and also at the most savage, and you do so to save the lives of people who find themselves in trouble.’

David, who has been with the charity since 1990, said, ‘I might have been the one making the decisions and helming the boat, but this was undoubtedly a fantastic team effort with the crew on the deck doing the hard work.

‘We have a good team here on Islay with the crew, operations and fundraisers. The fundraisers do a fantastic job every year raising funds to provide the community with the best possible boat and equipment.’

His four crew members were also recognised for their part in the rescue, an operation which lasted 18 hours on 16 February 2016.

Mechanic David McArthur (42), Navigator Thomas Coope (31), Crew Member Duncan MacGillivray (32) and Crew Member Peter Thomson (38) received Framed Letters of Thanks from the RNLI Chairman.

Captain Martin Porter (62), of the Deep Energy pipelay vessel, also received a Framed Letter of Thanks from the RNLI Chairman.

The RNLI also gave official thanks to the owners of Deep Energy with a letter from the RNLI Chief Executive.

Letters of thanks also go from the charity’s Operations Director to the pilot and crew of Rescue Helicopter R100 and to Gavin Hyne (28), a crew member of Deep Energy. He is also a volunteer mechanic at RNLI Buckie lifeboat station.

Captain Porter handed over a cheque for £500 to Mr Boissier, saying that he was honoured to be at the ceremony and to be given a framed letter of thanks.

The rescue was one of 1,102 call outs attended by RNLI volunteers from 46 lifeboat stations in Scotland in 2016, one of the charity’s busiest years.

The Islay lifeboat crew had to contend with extremely challenging weather that included winds of nearly 60 knots, driving sleet and treacherous sea conditions as they helped a yacht, Vestavind II, that had struck rocks at Skerryvore Reef and then started drifting.

The volunteer crew tried several times to make the Russian yachtsman tie the tow rope to his boat but attempts floundered in the face of appalling weather and the yachtsman’s difficulty in understanding what was required.

Eventually the yachtsman left the drifting yacht and climbed aboard Deep Energy from where he was airlifted to safety. The Islay lifeboat Helmut Schroder of Dunlossit II had left station at 12.45am on 16 February 2016 and returned at 6.20pm. The RNLI’s Barra lifeboat was also in attendance.

The RNLI said the official thanks for the emergency services and the pipelay vessel highlight the support given during very challenging conditions. Captain Porter did a ‘remarkable job’ in positioning his 195metre long vessel alongside the 15metre yacht while Gavin Hyne used his skill and training as an RNLI volunteer to assist with the transfer of the yachtsman from the ship’s deck to a Coastguard helicopter.

Summary of awards:

  • RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry – Coxswain David MacLellan
  • Framed letter of thanks from the Chairman – Mechanic David McArthur
  • Framed letter of thanks from the Chairman – Navigator Thomas Coope
  • Framed letter of thanks from the Chairman – Crew Duncan MacGillivray
  • Framed letter of thanks from the Chairman – Crew Peter Thomson
  • Framed letter of thanks from the Chairman - Captain Martin Porter, Master of Deep Energy
  • Letter of thanks from the Chief Executive – Owners of Deep Energy
  • Letter of thanks from the Operations Director – Pilot and Crew of Coastguard helicopter R100
  • Letter of thanks from the Operations Director - Gavin Hyne, crew on Deep Energy

RNLI Media Contacts: For more information please contact Richard Smith, Public Relations Manager for Scotland on 01738 443255 or 07786 668903 or by email at richard_smith@rnli.org.uk. Alternatively, contact RNLI Public Relations on 01202 336789.

Islay Coxswain David MacLellan receives the Bronze Medal from RNLI Chief Executive Paul Boissier

RNLI/Richard Smith

Islay Coxswain David MacLellan receives the Bronze Medal from RNLI Chief Executive Paul Boissier
Islay Coxswain David MacLellan and Deep Energy's Captain Martin Porter

RNLI/Richard Smith

Islay Coxswain David MacLellan and Deep Energy's Captain Martin Porter

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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