After an explosion onboard, the French yachtsman was forced to escape in his life raft

A

French sailor made a 999 call for assistance when his 36ft Bavarian yacht went

up in smoke approximately 15 nautical miles off Sunderland this morning.

The

loan yachtsman told Humber Coastguard there

had been an explosion onboard, he had abandoned the blazing yacht and was in

his life raft.

Hartlepool

RNLI all-weather and inshore lifeboats were both launched at 5.45am and reached the stricken yacht within 35 minutes, by which time an RAF

rescue helicopter from Boulmer was already winching the sailor from his

liferaft.

The

lifeboat crews recovered the liferaft, then stood by to ensure the burning

yacht did not become a danger to other vessels but it soon sank completely.

Hartlepool

RNLI coxswain Robbie Maiden said: ‘Fortunately, the sailor was uninjured but it

was very sad to see his yacht burn and then sink so quickly. We understand the

boat was his home and he was sailing from Iceland to Holland, but it looks like

he’s lost nearly everything.

‘He

seems to have done all the right things in what must have been a very

frightening situation. He launched the liferaft correctly and had everything he

needed to keep safe, including a lifejacket, flares and water.’

Humber

Coastguard also received a number of 999 calls from the public and local

vessels in the area who could see the smoke plumes and the yacht on fire.

Pictures: Hartlepool RNLI alongside the burning yacht. Credit: RNLI/Hartlepool