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Rescue crew goes 20 miles to aid yacht with cracked hull

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St Helena’s new rescue boat has been taken far out into a heavy Atlantic swell to aid a yacht crew whose vessel had begun taking in water through a crack in its hull.

The unnamed yacht had begun leaking heavily after setting out from St Helena on Wednesday (29 May 2013).

Alan Thomas, the deputy fire chief, told Saint FM: “We got a call from Cable & Wireless to say that a yacht needed assistance.

“The distance from the island when we had that call was about 40 nautical miles. They said that they was okay for a while because they were doing constant checks.

“It’s quite a long way out, and they said there was heavy swell and heavy wind as well.

“The operator from Cable & Wireless was keeping checks, so I made the decision that when they get 20nm from the island, that we would go there to assist them, and that’s what we did.”

Alan thanked veteran fisherman Trevor “Otto” Thomas for joining the five-strong crew on the mision. “Because we were going out that distance I decided to call on Trevor’s expertise to assist us.”

Crew member Jason Lawrence took up the story: “When we got out there we circled around the boat trying to find what was wrong. Apparently there was a crack in the port hull that was going into the emergency hatch.

“We were chatting to them to see if they needed a tow or to take them off and they say no they are going fine at three to four knots so we decided to just assist them and go alongside.”

Alan added: “We escorted them in, basically. It was a heavy seaway out there and what they were thinking about was the heavier the swell get, the more force the hull would take, therefore it could make the situation worse.”

He said he believed the yacht was headed for Brazil. Once back in James Bay, the crew said they would assess the vessel before deciding whether to have it lifted ashore for repairs.

Alan said the operation was a good test. “I know the rescue boat has come under a lot of criticism by members of the public out there, but rest assured it is fit for purpose.

“It has proven it again today, 19-20 miles out, all up-to-date navigational equipment, in heavy swells.

“We asked for their co-ordinates, we  punched them into our GPS [global satellite positioning] system, and we went straight to them.”

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