Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat crew went to the aid of the disabled sailor who was on a round-Britain challenge

Disabled sailor Keith White has been ‘rescued’ off the Suffolk coast – scuppering his attempt at a non-stop round Britain and Ireland challenge.

The Isle of Wight yachtsman, who lost the use of his left arm in a motorway accident in 1991, set sail last month on a quest to become the first disabled sailor to achieve a non-stop round Britain and Ireland voyage.

The eventful challenge in his 14m (47ft) yacht Marathon required the resourceful yachtsman to make ongoing, temporary, repairs but White had made it around the Shetland Islands and was en route south again.

However, just before 7pm last night, Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat was called by UK Coastguard to go to the aid of the yachtsman. Lifeboat crew said they found White in difficulty 27 miles south-east of the port as his sail was damaged and his engine had failed.

Lifeboat Coxswain John Fox said: ‘It took us about an hour to reach the stranded 14m (47ft) yacht, whose full name was Marathon of Guernsey, and when we arrived we could see that the vessel’s sail had ripped.

‘A wind farm crew transfer vessel had been standing by the yacht until we got there. The skipper of the yacht was very tired so we put one of our volunteer crew on board to help him and then connected a towline to bring the craft to Lowestoft. The sea was a bit lumpy with some heavy swells.’

Keith White said it was not a ‘rescue’. He told PBO: ‘I was ordered in by Dover coastguard as a big storm was on its way and I went in under protest as it was a windfarm boat reported that Marathon did not look good and they were from Lowestoft. They called the RNLI out from their home port.

‘The 45-mile trip would have taken all night and as they had to work the next day, they asked if I would take a tow to this I agreed to help them.’

The lifeboat moored the stranded yacht in Hamilton Dock just after midnight where White was met by the Lowestoft and Southwold Coastguard Rescue team.

Yacht Marathon is brought safely into Lowestoft. Credit: RNLI/Mick Howes

Marathon is brought safely into Lowestoft. Credit: RNLI/Mick Howes

White initially begun his non-stop round Britain and Ireland sailing challenge on 12 May. However, shortly after setting sail from the Isle of Wight, he sparked a midnight rescue from Cowes lifeboat just west of Cowes with equipment failure.

He returned to Cowes and made repairs before setting off again, clockwise around the British Isles. The voyage took him around the west coast of Ireland and St Kilda, north of the Shetlands Islands and south past the east coast of England. He had been expected to sail west along the English channel before returning to the Isle of Wight.

White’s Facebook page ‘Keith White – Disabled Sailor’ tells of his eventful voyage: ‘Keith has damaged topsides held together with gaffa tape, little or no electrics, no communications only his Yellow Brick, and a blown out mainsail.’

On 7 June, White also posted: I’m exhausted and wet. This is the first time I’ve stopped all day. Very big seas and Marathon went over to a 40 degree angle and now everything is on the floor – and predicted winds in the North Sea are 35 knots plus.’

Yacht Marathon under tow by Lowestoft Lifeboat. Credit: RNLI/Philip Holdsworth

Marathon under tow by Lowestoft Lifeboat. Credit: RNLI/Philip Holdsworth

A lifeboat spokesman said: ‘The sailor was a bit upset about having to be rescued. He told us that he had also been rammed by an Irish fisherman earlier in the trip. He had encountered bad weather with really strong winds over the past few days. The yacht had been knocked down by a heavy wave, which is why all his electrics had gone and he was unable to restart his engine.

‘He was trying to raise money for the disabled sailing organization Sailability.’