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DSC-connected VHF aids speedy rescue after dismasting

by Joanne Groenenberg/Sail-World Cruising on 6 Apr 2012
Mini Transat Betelguese rescue - yacht was left with sea anchor in the hope of later retrieval .. .
French sailor Louis Segre who was sailing a 6.5 Mini Transat yacht in gale force weather has been speedily rescued this week 26 miles south of the Isles of Scilly off the south western tip of England because of Digital Selective Calling (DSC) technology. His sailing boat Betelgeuse had been dismasted in the five metre seas.

Falmouth Coastguard was alerted to the sailor’s plight at 4.00 pm, after receiving a VHF digital selective calling (DSC) alert which significantly aided a speedy rescue. The Whiteheads, under the command of coxswain Phil Woodcock was launched at 4.14pm

Because the sailor 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 half an hour away.

Because of the yacht's dismasting communication over any distance was 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 five metre swell. The 7-man volunteer crew immediately launched and arrived at the scene at 6.40pm. Once the lifeboat arrived on scene, the sailor was rescued from his yacht and taken back to St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly.

Not to be half-hearted about the rescue, he was then accommodated in the Star Castle Hotel overnight (one of the RNLI volunteers was associated with the hotel).

The five-metre seas had meant that a tow was not possible. So before abandoning the yacht a sea-anchor was put out in the hope of recovering her, and a navigation warning promulgated.

Terry Collins, Falmouth Coastguard Watch Manager says:
'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.'

To find out why all sailors should fit DSC to their boats, http://www.vhf-dsc.info/why.html!click_here
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