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Withernsea and Humber Lifeboats launch to assist world record attempt rower

Lifeboats News Release

Two lifeboats from East Yorkshire were launched in the early hours of Saturday morning after the UK Coastguard received concerned reports for a solo rower attempting to row round Britain.

RNLI/Tracie Talbot

Withernsea Lifeboat launching in the dark - catalogue photo

The volunteer crew at Withernsea RNLI were paged at 4.26am on Saturday 6 October by the UK Coastguard to assist the rowing vessel after the vessel and its solo occupant had got into difficulties four miles north of Withernsea. As the crew were rising from their beds to respond to the pager, the Humber Lifeboat crew were also paged to assist.

Withernsea’s inshore lifeboat Henley Eight launched shortly after, in complete darkness and into unforgiving sea conditions with a crew of four on board. Humber’s all-weather lifeboat Pride of the Humber was also on its way from Spurn Point. With the help from Withernsea Coastguard, Withernsea’s volunteer RNLI crew located the rowing vessel 45 minutes after launching, having to battle through strong winds, relentless sea swells made worse by the dark October night.

After speaking to the lone rower it became apparent that under the rules of his world record attempt, neither lifeboat could give any assistance without ending his world record attempt. After 148 days alone at sea and with less than 150 miles to go to his finish line, Andy Hodgson was desperate to overcome the situation without help. The decision was taken that both the Withernsea and Humber lifeboats would escort him further out to sea in a hope the calmer waters would offer rest for the tired rower.

Two hours later, against a strong tide and relentless waves, limited progress had being made. Drifting close to shore and with much worse weather forecasted to arrive shortly and after a discussion with both lifeboats, Andy made the heavy decision to accept a tow to the nearest place of safety, Spurn Point which was 14 miles away.

Withernsea’s volunteers attached a tow from Humber Lifeboat to the casualty boat as all three vessels rolled around in the building swells.

Due to the poor conditions, Andy was taken aboard Withernsea Lifeboat before being transferred to Humber Lifeboat, this manoeuvre took three attempts due to the poor sea conditions. Humber then began the three hour tow back to Spurn Point, as Withernsea Lifeboat returned back to station shortly before 8.30am.

Volunteer RNLI Helmsman, Antony Binns said: 'Conditions were very poor that morning. We had to take the most experienced crew available so we could draw on every bit of knowledge to perform this service safely. The sea conditions, along with the darkness and heavy rain made the visibility very poor. One of the crew who has nearly 25 years experience said it was the worst conditions he had experienced on a call out.'

Volunteer RNLI Helmsman, Matthew Woodhouse added: 'We could see how tough a decision it was for Andy to accept assistance. He had come so far, survived so much already and was devastatingly close to his finish line. He made the right decision to accept help as the sea conditions and weather worsened shortly after, we could be talking about a different outcome if he hadn't made his decision when he did.'

RNLI Media contacts

For more information please contact Matthew Woodhouse, RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on: 07885 233470.

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 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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