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RNLI Torbay interrupts exercise to assist yacht caught up by recent storm.

Lifeboats News Release

Sometimes the weather and ‘events’ can catch up with you even if you’re an experienced sailor. That happened on Friday as Storm Arwen started to build, a yacht was caught sailing towards home. Fortunately, Torbay's volunteer lifeboat crew were nearby on exercise at the time.

At 2:39pm on Friday 26 November, only 30 minutes after launching Torbay's All Weather Lifeboat (ALB) on exercise, the volunteer lifeboat crew were informed over the radio by HM Coastguard , that a 36 foot yacht had fired off red distress flares half a mile north-west off Berry Head. The flares were seen members of the public who’d called 999 to raise the alarm. Since the crew were already in the Bay, it took them only four minutes to come to her assistance.

In 45 knot winds and building seas, the yacht had been unable to furl her jib and had had problems with water entering the engine, which was consequently faltering. This presented a particular problem because the yacht was being sailed single handed, making any attempts to leave the helm to go forward to fix the jib or sort the engine, dangerously tricky.

The volunteer crew approached alongside as close as they could in the rolling swells to enable two crew members to effectively board. Once there, they lowered the errand jib, managed to resolve apparent engine difficulties and stayed at the helm as the lifeboat escorted the yacht back to Brixham Harbour where MDL Marina kindly helped moor her to one of their pontoons. Two crew members ensured the owner and yacht were safe and secure whilst the lifeboat remained on hand in case of any further difficulties in the growing winds. The volunteer crew then headed back to the station arriving at 3:18pm and made ready the ALB for a return to service by 3:40pm

The Torbay RNLI Coxswain, said; 'It is sensible and less risky when sailing single-handed in heavy seas, to stay in the cockpit if you can. So, when two things go wrong at the same time, as happened today in such circumstances, it was the wiser and safer option to call for assistance.

It was also great that the public responded so quickly when sighting the red distress flares. That plus being so close-by at the time, meant we could assist very promptly.'

All weather Lifeboat approches yacht shortly after letting off red distress flares on edge of Torbay.

RNLI/Niall Blatcher

Our approach
View of yacht in distress with unfurled and jammed jib.

RNLI/Niall Blatcher

View of yacht from our all-weather lifeboat
Initial attempts to board and assist.

RNLI/Niall Blatcher

Up alongside
Two crew on board and assisting with jib.

RNLI/Niall Blatcher

Our crew on board assisting.
Escorting yacht with 2 crew members aboard, into MDL Marina in Brixham.

RNLI/Niall Blatcher

Escorting yacht into Brixham harbour
Our ALB stays on hand as crew moor up yacht at MDL Marina, Brixham.

RNLI/Niall Blatcher

Watching over crew mooring up yacht

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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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.