The seriously ill sailor alerted the coastguard using a Digital Selective Calling system

A solo yachtswoman was airlifted from the Bristol Channel after she was taken seriously ill and used her Digital Selective Calling (DSC) system to alert the Coastguard.

Swansea Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre received the DSC alert at 19:51 last night.

They immediately contacted the vessel and were told that the sailor, who was on her own and suffering from chest pains mid-channel (11 miles off both the Welsh and North Devon coast).

The rescue helicopter based at Chivenor and the RNLI Lifeboat based at the Mumbles were sent to the scene. After an assessment from 2nd coxswain Rob Tovey the sailor was airlifted from the yacht and flown to Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

Crew members from the lifeboat transferred to the 28 foot Ketch yacht and sailed it to moorings at the Mumbles.

Marc Lancey, Watch Manager at Swansea Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre said: ‘This sailor became suddenly and seriously ill and was struggling to talk on the radio.

‘Because they had a Digital Selective Calling (DSC) radio fitted they were able to raise the alarm and give their position just by pressing a single button and that’s why the Coastguard recommend that, where possible, all vessels are fitted with VHF DSC radio equipment.’

‘Very lucky’

When the call came in, the Mumbles lifeboat was on exercise and able to reach the scene within 20 minutes.

Lifeboat Operations Manager Tim Conway said ‘The skipper was very lucky the crew were on exercise in the immediate area.

She had been suffering with chest pains for a couple of hours and had some of her own medication but when she realised this was having no effect she hit the emergency DSC distress button on her vhf radio.

This immediately let us know she was in serious trouble and her exact position. This type of safety equipment is essential for lone yachtsmen.

Coxswain of the Mumbles lifeboat James Bolter added: ‘She was very grateful for our assistance and all the crew wish her a quick and successful recovery.’

The crew returned the vessel to Swansea Marina at 11pm some three hours later.

Pictures: Mumbles all weather lifeboat taking casualty vessel in tow in the Bristol Channel; Preparing for immediate the airlift. Credit: RNLI/Andy Miles