Stormy Weather Pushes Yacht Race to its Limit
In a remarkable display of maritime endurance, a historic 695-mile yacht race originating from Cowes in the Solent last Saturday witnessed a record-setting 430 competitors embarking on the journey around Ireland’s Fastnet Rock, culminating in Cherbourg, France.
However, the treacherous combination of heavy rainfall, winds topping 46mph, and a sea state reaching 4 metres resulted in the RNLI crews from Yarmouth, Poole, Swanage, and Weymouth being deployed multiple times during the race’s initial hours. HM Coastguard reported an unprecedented number of taskings, and over a quarter of the contenders retired by Sunday’s end.
RNLI Lifeboats Respond to Series of Incidents Amid Severe Weather
As the participating fleet sailed from the Solent directly into the tempestuous conditions, RNLI lifeboats were assigned to respond to a slew of incidents.
One of the more critical situations unfolded when a yacht carrying two individuals sent out a distress call after it began flooding. The Yarmouth all-weather lifeboat reached the scene to find a liferaft carrying the duo, whose yacht had sunk. The rescuers brought them onboard; they were mostly unscathed but understandably rattled.
Another alarming situation involved the Swanage all-weather lifeboat racing towards a yacht, which had a crew member suffering a head injury and in urgent need of evacuation. Amid the rough conditions, two lifeboat crew members were dispatched to provide first aid. Once they reached the calmer waters of Studland Bay, the injured sailor was evacuated by a lifeboat and handed over to ambulance care.
Numerous Emergencies Handled by RNLI Amid Challenging Conditions
In addition to these, RNLI lifeboats managed a plethora of emergencies throughout the gusty afternoon. These ranged from dismasted yachts and unintentional activations of Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) to a yacht suffering steering failure and another with a hand injury.
Yarmouth RNLI Coxswain Howard Lester commented: “This weekend’s Fastnet race was the busiest one for Yarmouth lifeboat, with six responses to some very challenging situations in the western Solent and beyond. We were very fortunate that all our call-outs were to crews equipped with lifejackets or life rafts readily accessible onboard.”