New Quay RNLI crew awarded for rescuing rowers in storm force conditions

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI has announced six crew members from New Quay will each receive a Letter of Thanks from the RNLI Chairman for answering a Mayday call to an ocean-going rowing boat in difficulty during Storm Arwen. The news comes almost a year to the day the storm caused havoc around the UK coastline.

Coxswain Dan Potter, full-time mechanic Bernie Davies, navigator Simon Rigby and crew members on the day Rees-Tom Jones, Dylan Price and Huw Williams will all receive the accolade for their seamanship, resilience, determination and courage in rescuing three people from the vessel. The casualties – an Irish rowing team– have since returned to the station and thanked their rescuers, making a kind donation.

Roger Couch, Lifeboat Operations Manager at New Quay says:

‘Sometimes rescues stick in your mind and this was most definitely one of them. I am thrilled that the RNLI felt my nomination was worthy of further consideration. I couldn’t be prouder that the RNLI agreed that the crew should be recognised for their skill, courage and bravery during this most challenging rescue. I’m feeling incredibly proud of all our crew who have been awarded but also to the whole team at New Quay for playing their part in making rescues such as this possible.’

The all-weather lifeboat was launched just after 8am on 26 November 2021 following reports that that the rowing boat had put out the highest emergency distress call 18 miles northwest of New Quay. The casualty vessel was a one tonne 8.5 metre R45 Elite rowing boat, which had set off from Ireland for Aberystwyth earlier that day.

One crew member onboard the rowing boat had suffered a head injury, and was evacuated by Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 936, to be taken to hospital for medical attention.

New Quay lifeboat launched in force 8 to 9 winds from the northwest with rough seas, deteriorating in the preliminary stages of Storm Arwen. From the information provided by the Coastguard, it appeared the rowing boat had capsized, injuring the crew member. Barmouth lifeboat and the Coastguard’s Rescue Helicopter 936 were on scene.

New Quay lifeboat arrived to find the rowing boat semi-submerged, listing at approximately 90 degrees, with three people onboard.

New Quay lifeboat urgently proceeded towards the casualty vessel, with a crew member equipped in a dry suit to evacuate the three people to the lifeboat. When going alongside the casualty vessel that was still listing at approximately 90 degrees, the lifeboat crew observed one of the casualties waving from inside one of the cabins that the water level was up to the windows. They were very concerned the rowing boat might turn over, or sink.

RNLI volunteer crew member Simon Rigby clipped onto the rail and leaned over the side of the lifeboat. Two casualties immediately exited from one cabin and started to swim towards the lifeboat and were quickly pulled on board. The third casualty exited from the second cabin, struggling to swim, and had failed to inflate his lifejacket. He was tiring and his head was disappearing beneath the water.

Crewman Rigby was able to grab him and hold his head above water. By this time, the casualty was unable to help himself, but he was held until other crew on deck could assist and pull him onto the lifeboat.

Siwan Holloway, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager says:

‘This was such a challenging rescue for the crew, who are prepared to go to sea in any weathers should the call come. As the anniversary of Storm Arwen approaches, I’m feeling incredibly proud that the courage and bravery of the New Quay crew onboard that day is being recognised. They did a fantastic job and the sailors were undoubtedly very lucky that they were on hand to offer assistance.’

The Chairman’s Letter of Thanks is an RNLI gallantry awards recognisting one-off instances of bravery, courage and endeavour. The awards will be presented to the New Quay crew at a later date.

Notes to Editors

A group image of the crew to be awarded can be download here.

Portrait images of Simon Rigby, Huw Williams, Rees Tom-Jones and Dan Potter are available for download here: https://source.rnli.org.uk/share/58C5B624-D0BC-4998-B267782EE4097084/

RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone Danielle Rush on 07786 668829 [email protected] or the RNLI’s press office on 01202 336789 or [email protected]

12 men stood in front of a lifeboat

RNLI/New Quay

Rowers return to thank New Quay RNLI crew
rowing boat at 90 degrees to the water, semi submerged

RNLI/Claire Elshaw

Image of the listing row boat

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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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

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.

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