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Sail-training crew rescued in 60knot weather

by Sail-World Cruising round-up on 4 Jan 2012
Liquid Vortex rescue SW
Of seven crew, only one crew member was fit enough to assist with their rescue. 40ft Sail training vessel Liquid Vortex was caught in horrendous Force 11(56-63knot) conditions off the coast of Britain this week. With five crew severely seasick and one injured it was a tough way for the Royal National Lifesaving Institution (RNLI) to start their New Year.

Four people were airlifted to hospital by a RAF helicopter and are being treated for injury and severe seasickness. The boat was towed to Ramsgate, the towline breaking three times during the journey.

Rescuers battled the 60knot winds and swells of up to five metres to reach the crew, who had radioed for help while close to St Margaret's Bay in Kent.

Not only the first lifeboat and the RAF helicopter, but also a second lifeboat from Dover and the coastguard were involved in the rescue.

The yacht's steering system had packed up and her engines had failed. Dungeness RNLI's Mersey class lifeboat, Pride and Spirit, was launched and arrived to find the training vessel floundering, with her main shredded.

Watch the video of the rescue and tow in this video and pick up a few clues about the difficulties of towing in bad seas:


Judith Richardson, for Dungeness RNLI, said: ‘It was pretty horrendous out there and our duty coxswain, Mark Richardson, made three attempts to transfer a lifeboat crew member across to them. Their aim was to attach a tow line, but the conditions were just too rough and dangerous to make the transfer. It was blowing Storm Force 11 at the time, so one can only imagine how it felt for those onboard the training vessel.

‘The crew reported that,of seven crew, only one was in a fit state to assist with the transfer - the remainder were injured or suffering severe seasickness. Our crew eventually managed to transfer a crew member across and attach a tow line, then began towing the vessel to Dover. However, because of the severity of the weather conditions, the tow line broke three times.'

Dungeness crew felt that it was too dangerous to attempt to tow into Dover harbour by themselves and requested assistance from Dover RNLI lifeboat at around 8am. Dover launched their Severn class lifeboat, City of London II, to help with the operation.

Neither lifeboat were allowed into Dover harbour via the western entrance, because Dover Port Control had closed it due to the weather.

Judith explained: ‘In conjunction with port control, crews decided it was too difficult to get into the eastern entrance because the sea was so rough. Instead they decided to escort the vessel round to The Downs, nearer Ramsgate.'

In the meantime, RAF Rescue helicopter 125 was dispatched to the scene. A paramedic was winched down onto Liquid Vortex and airlifted four of her crew for further medical assistance. The remaining three crew aboard the vessel were towed into Ramsgate where a medical team was waiting to provide assistance.

Allen Head, Training Divisional Inspector for the RNLI in the East, said: ‘The volunteer crews of both Dungeness and Dover showed no fear in launching in what were horrendous conditions to assist the crew of this vessel. Those aboard certainly had a baptism of fire, being out in such weather, but our crews did everything possible to bring them ashore safely.

'On a day when thousands of people were returning back to work and their daily routines, our crew were out doing what they do best - saving lives at sea. Their commitment continues to impress myself and, I feel sure, the many generous supporters who help fund the RNLI.'

...which reminds us to give you a link so that, if you are reading this and inspired to donate, you can simply http://www.rnli.org.uk/how_to_support_us/donate/!click_here!
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