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Henri Lloyd

One more day in the life of Brixham Coastguard

by Daily Mail/Sail-World Cruising on 26 May 2013
Ushant and Devon .. .
It is a quiet moment in Britain's Brixham Coastguard control room Thursday evening this week. Coffee is hot, chilled air outside. The 'red' line rings, signalling some emergency at sea, and the junior Coastguard officer on watch answers it swiftly.

'Please name your vessel and position sir.'

'Sir the line is crackling, I didn't catch what you said. It sounded like 'Crediton, Devon'. That's the name of the yacht?'

The senior officer glances up from his book.

'OK ok speak slowly please sir, It's not the name of the yacht. You're a Christopher Tucker, a builder's merchant in Crediton Devon? Do I have that correct?'

'Sir could you speak more slowly. You say there's a person fallen overboard, but you live in Crediton Devon. Where is the person fallen overboard sir? With respect you are nowhere near the sea.'

Now the senior officer is paying attention.

There is a long pause while the junior officer listens.

'Let me get this straight, sir, so we can assist you. Someone has fallen off a yacht off the coast of France and they have called YOU because they can't understand the French coastguard?'

The senior officer has dropped his book and is getting up from his comfortable chair.

'Yes, that's correct sir they would be speaking French. Are you a relative? No, the person still on board is a CUSTOMER? No it doesn't matter, just tell me the facts. I see sir, just repeat it slowly - the yacht is Caprice? off the coast of Ushant in France? and the coordinates? Very good. Slowly and clearly please. Thank you. Now stay on the line please sir. Yes, sir, we have people here who can speak French, they've been learning specially you see. Yes sir, don't worry sir, I am giving your information to the right people as we speak.'

...and the Brixham Coastguard sprrings into action.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the search for the missing yachtsman involved, as well as the Brixham Coastguard, a French lifeboat, two search and rescue helicopters, a fixed-wing aircraft, along with two naval vessels - from France and Germany - that happened to be in the area at the time.

He was rescued by the German warship and then airlifted to hospital in France.

'The man who fell overboard was wearing a lifejacket and also a type of wet suit, which undoubtedly saved his life,' the MCA said.

Mr Tucker, whose actions were praised by Brixham Coastguard and his employers, said he was glad both men were safe.

'It wasn't sounding too good for a while,' he said. 'I'm not quite sure why he called me,' Mr Tucker said.

'It was quite difficult to hear him because it was so windy, but he just kept repeating coordinates and times.

'He said he couldn't understand the French coastguards and they didn't understand him.'

Mr Tucker said he had seen his customer on Tuesday so knew he was planning a sailing trip.

'He'd told me he was going on his friend's yacht and they were going to take it down to the south of France to leave it there for the summer, then get the ferry back,' he said.

Mr Tucker stayed on the phone to his customer while Brixham Coastguards liaised with the French authorities. The man is now being treated for hypothermia in hospital.

The stricken yacht was towed back to harbour by the French lifeboat. The names of the sailors have not been revealed.

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