Annual Fastnet race sees Yarmouth RNLI tasked to multiple shouts throughout day
Saturday 22 July 2023 saw Yarmouth’s volunteer RNLI crew paged to several shouts in a matter of hours during the 50th edition of the Fastnet race which takes place between Cowes and Cherbourg.
Yarmouth’s all-weather RNLI Lifeboat 17-25 Eric and Susan Hiscock, Wanderer was initially tasked at 3.46pm to reports of a sailing vessel that had dismasted northeast of Yarmouth Harbour. Once on scene, it was found that the crew of the vessel were able to free the mast and make their own way back to Cowes. Yarmouth RNLI would then be tasked to further incidents around the Solent.
At 4.15pm, Yarmouth 17-25 received the report of a sailing yacht that had run aground west of Beaulieu entrance. On arrival, it was clear that the all-weather lifeboat would be unable to assist and made recommendations to HM Coastguard that Lymington Coastal Rescue team should take over the tasking in assessing the vessel and the best means of recovery. Once the arrangements were made, Yarmouth RNLI were then tasked a third time.
This next tasking came when HM Coastguard were alerted to an activated emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) at 4:25pm south of the Needles Lighthouse. The RNLI crew began to make their way to the position through the force of six / seven winds, rough sea, and poor visibility, but they were then quickly tasked to what would be their most time critical shout of the afternoon. (Swanage RNLI would later be tasked to investigate the EPIRB alert.)
At 4:55pm, the RNLI crew headed towards the next call out towards Dolphin Bank, west of the Needles Lighthouse, where Yarmouth RNLI put their all-weather lifeboat to good use as it hit waves of three to four metre swells due to the rapidly deteriorating weather. Making good speed, the crews arrived on scene to the devastating sight of a sunken vessel leaving the two crew in an inflatable life raft awaiting the prompt response of the RNLI volunteer crew. In attendance was Coastguard Helicopter 175, who stood by whilst Yarmouth crews made their initial casualty assessments. It was then decided that Yarmouth RNLI would transfer both casualties back to Yarmouth Harbour where an ambulance awaited their arrival to treat minor injuries sustained whilst evacuating the sinking vessel onto their life raft. The casualties had also triggered their EPIRBs and their personal locator beacons when entering the water, which our volunteer crews quickly established were registered to the boat that had sunk, and coordinated with Coastguard on the deactivation. This is done to rule out that any other person had entered the water.
Whilst heading back to Yarmouth Harbour, a fifth tasking was requested of Yarmouth RNLI to the reports of an injured crew member onboard another sailing vessel; however whilst in transit, the casualty vessel decided to retire from the race, and make their own way back to Yarmouth to meet a second ambulance for medical assistance.
Yarmouth RNLI returned to harbour with the two sailors from the sunken vessel at 6:15pm and were assessed once on land by the IOW NHS ambulance service.
With no further taskings reported at the time, Yarmouth RNLI were stood down to re-fuel, and were marked as ready for service at 7pm.
As evening fell, the fleet of the Fastnet race began to spread down the west coast, and the Yarmouth RNLI crew were tasked for the sixth time that day at 8:38pm by HM Coastguard to the Pan-Pan* call of another dismasted yacht located near St Alban’s Head. The all-weather lifeboat battled through gusting force eight winds and heavy seas measuring as high as five metres to get to the location of the yacht in difficulty. Once on scene, the yacht had managed to jettison their rigging and therefore only required assistance in escorting the vessel and the crew back to Poole Harbour entrance.
It is worth noting that throughout the day, Weymouth and Swanage RNLI Lifeboats had also been tasked to several different incidents across Christchurch and Poole Bay.
The Yarmouth lifeboat returned to Yarmouth after the passage to Poole Harbour and was marked as ready for service at 11:23pm.
Throughout the day, Yarmouth lifeboat also recovered two life rafts, one belonging to the crew of the sunken yacht (the fourth tasking) and four man-overboard markers that had accidentally fallen into the water which had triggered some of the beacons to activate. After reporting these to Coastguard, Yarmouth crew disarmed and packed away the beacons to avoid any unnecessary taskings to these fallen markers.
Howard Lester, Yarmouth RNLI Coxswain said.
‘Yesterday's Fastnet race was the busiest one for Yarmouth Lifeboat, responding to six incidents in some very challenging conditions in the Western Solent and beyond. We were very fortunate that all our call outs were to crews with means of calling for help and were equipped with lifejackets and personal locator beacons and had life rafts accessible onboard’.
Notes to editors
RNLI boats included in the taskings were Weymouth ALB 17-32 and Swanage ALB 13-12, and other rescue agencies included HM Coastguard and the IOW NHS Ambulance service.
Photos attached – search pattern Yarmouth 17-25 had taken throughout the day and a image of 17-25 on the return home between call-outs meeting with the IOW ambulance service.
*Pan-pan is a call for help with no immediate danger to life or vessel.
RNLI media contacts
Hebe Gregory, Yarmouth RNLI Trainee Lifeboat Press Officer [email protected]
Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer (South East), 0207 6207426, 07785 296252
For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789
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, in a normal year, 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.
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.
Learn more about the RNLI
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