Royal Navy stand by the dismasted Aviva

HMS Northumberland
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It is reported that HMS Northumberland, a Royal Navy Type 23 frigate, diverted to provide assistance to Dee Caffari and her dismasted 60ft yacht, Aviva, last night in the Bay of Biscay.

Aviva was in a position 140 miles North West of the Spanish Coast which placed the vessel 8 miles within the UK Search and Rescue region.

Falmouth Coastguard contacted the Royal Navy to ascertain whether there were any warships in the area. The Royal Navy confirmed that HMS Northumberland which has been operating in the meditteraen and is en route back to Devonport for Christmas was in a position approxiamately 90 miles away from the Aviva could divert to assist.

Dee Caffari has managed to cut the mast free and it is now gone and even though a full gale which has kept large tugs in harbour is still blowing, the boat can survive.

Andy Cattrell, Watch Manager, Falmouth Coastguard said:

Whilst this is not a distress situation at the moment, incidents such as this can sometimes deterioriate very quickly into one. It is prudent to get some assistance to this yachtswoman to enable her to get to safety as at the moment she has limited means of propulsion.

A tug from La Coruna is expected to reach Aviva later this morning as the gale abates and if conditions permit will start to tow the yacht to safety.

Earlier Dee reported:

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Dee Caffari on Aviva during the Transat Jacques Vabre
It was around 6.00am and I was sat in the cuddy in all my gear and wearing my harness. I was going upwind at 8-9 knots with three reefs in and a staysail and the weather was severe. Aviva fell off a wave, landed with a massive bang and crash then shuddered. I jumped up on deck to see the mast going over the port side of the boat. I just thought: Oh my god.

At this point the mast was banging against the hull of the boat and to avoid serious damage it was imperative to cut the rig away as quickly as possible. I had to work out how to cut the mast free while trying to work out what actually happened.

The mast broke just above the third reef and it all fell over to the side. It took an hour and 25 minutes to get the boat away from the damage. I've still got a boom and a deck spreader but I have a damaged dagger board and a damaged rudder. I am adrift in the wind. I had gusts of 48 knots and it started to ease but it is now back to 47 knots again with big waves.

I don't really know how I am feeling at the moment - the adrenalin is keeping me going. My hands are cut from using the hacksaw and knives on the rigging but I feel the emotions will kick in later. I feel I'm being stretched to the limit and this is the last sting in the tale.