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Swanage lifeboat involved in three rescues to yachts in 50th Fastnet race

Lifeboats News Release

At just before 5pm, Swanage all-weather lifeboat launched to the first of three rescues in strong winds and rough seas.

The Fastnet race was underway with over 430 yachts setting off from Cowes into challenging conditions. A 'Mayday' broadcast from a sinking yacht west of the Needles prompted a UK Coastguard to request Swanage all-weather lifeboat (ALB). As the lifeboat was preparing to launch the tasking changed as Yarmouth lifeboat was already in the water following an earlier incident and was now free to attend the Mayday to the two people from the sinking yacht who had abandoned to their liferaft. Yarmouth lifeboat was quickly on scene and recovered the two crew to safety.

The Swanage ALB was re-tasked to locate an activated Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) in a position between Old Harry Rocks and the Needles. Good speed down a following sea was made to that position and an expanding square search pattern was commenced.

The UK Coastguard rescue helicopter 'Rescue 175' joined the search and was given an updated start position. This position corresponded with the position of a racing yacht and 'Rescue 175' managed to ascertain that the beacon had been accidentally activated and all was OK on board.

The ALB was then stood down and returned to the relative calm of Swanage Bay. As the lifeboat was about to be re-housed the UK Coastguard passed on a further tasking - another Fastnet competitor had suffered steering failure, so the lifeboat headed out to sea again.

The yacht was reported to be in difficulties 5nm east of Swanage. Something in the yacht's steering had failed causing them to lose control of their boat. In gale force winds they were unable to make any repairs and had requested assistance.

The lifeboat was on scene with yacht 20 minutes later and a plan was discussed with the yacht's crew. Due to the conditions, it was decided not to carry out a crew transfer in the rough conditions, unless it was absolutely vital, so the two crew on the yacht were requested to rig everything required.

The first piece of equipment to pass across was a drogue, which acts as a water parachute to slow the casualty boat down and help stabilise it as it had no steering. The drogue was successfully passed across and rigged by the yacht's crew. This immediately took effect and the yacht's movement was much more predictable. Next to go across was the towline. A heaving line was thrown across first, the yacht's crew then had to work hard to pull the towline aboard and get it secured to their boat. After about 10 minutes the towline was connected and the yacht's crew were able to return to the safety of their cockpit.

A route was plotted to Poole Harbour and the slow tow commenced. With lots of traffic on the VHF radio from other boats reporting problems a request was put to Poole Lifeboat to take over the tow just inside Poole harbour. This would then free up the Swanage crew for another tasking if required. A little over an hour later the tow was successfully handed over to Poole lifeboat just off Brownsea Castle.

As predicted the Swanage volunteers were immediately tasked to another incident 3nm east of Ballard Down.

The casualty was on board a yacht taking part in the Fastnet race. They had suffered a head injury, had been knocked overboard and then dragged through the water by their lifeline until the yacht's crew could get them onboard. The casualty was slipping in and out of consciousness and required immediate medical assistance.

The Coastguard helicopter from South Wales, 'Rescue 187' was hovering overhead but had been unable to put their paramedic aboard because of the adverse conditions. The helicopter was running low on fuel but were able to remain on scene until the lifeboat arrived. Once on scene the yacht was requested to head in to the wind to slow it down and reduce the boat's motion as much as possible. The lifeboat came alongside the yacht and transferred two casualty care trained crew members a first aid kit and oxygen. The helicopter had been overhead illuminating the scene but now had to depart to refuel.

An assessment of the casualty was done, immediate evacuation was required and an ambulance requested. The yacht followed the lifeboat in to the calmer waters of Studland Bay so the casualty could be transferred safely. Once in calmer waters a stretcher passed across and the casualty carefully secured in to it. Whilst this was being done the yacht picked up a mooring and the lifeboat tied up alongside. The casualty and one of their crew mates were transferred to the lifeboat then best speed was made to the ferry steps just inside Poole Harbour where an ambulance was waiting.

The casualty was handed over to the ambulance crew and the lifeboat was released to return to station. The lifeboat was finally back on its slipway at 11pm over 6 hours after launching.

1st callout - ALB Crew: (Coxn) Dave Turnbull, Robert Aggas, Steve Williams, Tom Greasty, Phil Palmer, Andy Redout

2nd callout - ALB Crew: (Coxn) Dave Turnbull, Robert Aggas, Tom Greasty, Phil Palmer, Andy Redout, Sam Aggas

Shore Crew: (Head Launcher) Luke Kill, (Winchman) Paul Bedford, Nigel Bower, Julian Vass

3rd callout - ALB Crew: (Coxn) Dave Turnbull, Robert Aggas, Tom Greasty, Phil Palmer, Andy Redout, Sam Aggas

Shore Crew: (Head Launcher) Luke Kill, (Winchman) Paul Bedford, Nigel Bower, Julian Vass

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.

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