Ilfracombe RNLI launch to assist injured sailor
The Ilfracombe all-weather lifeboat was launched just after 5.00 p.m. on Thursday 22 August to assist an injured man and his crew aboard a small yacht nine miles off-shore.
The Ilfracombe lifeboat The Barry and Peggy High Foundation was launched following a mayday call to the Coastguard from the man who had been struck on the head by the boom of his yacht. The man and his female crew from were on their maiden voyage from Wales in the small yacht when the incident occurred in difficult sea conditions.
As the RNLI volunteer crew quickly made their way to the yacht, the sky was overcast with a slight mist however as the lifeboat went further offshore conditions became challenging with large three to four meter swells and strong West/South Westerly winds gusting up to force seven (28–33 knots). The lifeboat arrived on scene at around 5.40 p.m. and found the yacht still making way under engine with two people on board. The two people aboard the yacht were well equipped and were wearing life jackets and were clipped on with safety lines. The St Athan Coastguard helicopter was on scene when the lifeboat arrived however they were unable to place a winchman aboard due to the poor conditions. Once the lifeboat arrived the helicopter left the scene to refuel.
Once on scene the RNLI Volunteer Coxswain assessed the situation and immediately put an RNLI crew member aboard the yacht to reassure the two sailors. The injured man had a head wound, however there were a number of pre-existing health conditions which gave cause for additional concerns. The female crew was suffering from extreme sickness in the rough seas and both were very distressed. A second crew member was then put aboard the yacht and the yacht was then brought alongside the lifeboat to enable to the crew to assist the injured man onto the stern of the lifeboat where he was taken into the wheelhouse to be assessed by the medically trained crew. The crew aboard the yacht with the assistance of the lifeboat crew then lifted the woman aboard. This took several attempts due to the poor condition of the woman and the rough seas. Both casualties were safely aboard the lifeboat 30 minutes later.
The Coastguard helicopter returned back to the scene having refuelled around 6.30 p.m. Due to the rough conditions a high line was dropped to the lifeboat and a winchman guided onto the lifeboat by the crew. The Coastguard helicopter lifted first the injured man and then the woman into the helicopter. The helicopter then left the scene at 7.00 p.m and took the casualties back to shore where they were met by the Penarth Coastguard Rescue team and the Welsh Ambulance Service and taken to University Hospital of Wales.
The yacht was then towed back into Ilfracombe harbour arriving back at the station at 9.30 p.m. where the lifeboat was recovered ready for the next service. Volunteer RNLI Coxswain Andrew Bengey says: ‘the sailors today were hoping to enjoy a sail on a nice sunny day, however the conditions offshore were much worse than forecast. It was good to see that the sailors were properly equipped and wearing lifejackets, this is something that the RNLI would urge all sailors to do. The sea conditions today were very difficult, however the crew spend many hours practicing the manoeuvers we had to use today to get the people aboard the lifeboat safely. Today was also a good example of a multi-agency rescue with the Coastguard helicopter. We train with the Coastguard in joint exercises so that we are prepared for these types of rescues and conditions.’
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.