Yacht abandoned to gales after solo skipper saved

A single-handed sailor was rescued 26 miles south of the Isles of Scilly yesterday afternoon, after his yacht was dismasted in a Force 8 north-westerly gale.

Falmouth Coastguard received a VHF digital selective calling (DSC) alert from the vessel, Betelgeuse, 6.5m Mini-Transat racing yacht, at 4pm yesterday.

Because the sailor, Frenchman Louis Segre, used DSC connected to a GPS transponder, coastguards received an instant accurate position and put out a broadcast to all shipping asking for assistance from vessels in the area. The car carrier Aquamarine Ace responded and offered to go to the assistance of the yacht, which was 30 minutes away. Betelgeuse had become dismasted and communication over any distance was therefore difficult, so as well as the ship providing a lee to the yacht, they were also able to communicate information from the yacht to the coastguard.

Meanwhile, Falmouth Coastguard had requested St Mary’s RNLI lifeboat to launch. The lifeboat was an hour away in rough weather with a 5m swell. Once the lifeboat arrived on scene, conditions were judged too dangerous for a tow so the sailor was transferred to the lifeboat and taken back to St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly. The yacht had to be abandoned due to the rough weather.

Terry Collins, Falmouth Coastguard Watch Manager said: ‘In an emergency situation, using VHF DSC makes a massive difference to how quickly we might be able to get rescue resources to vessels in distress. A VHF DSC alert gives us an instant position allowing coastguards to deploy lifeboats, helicopters or other units almost immediately. In this particular case, DSC was even more helpful because voice communications were difficult due to the vessel being dismasted.’

Video clip

Image: RNLI/St Mary’sRNLI
Maritime & Coastguard Agency

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