Swanage RNLI crew commended for saving life during Fastnet Race

Commendations have been awarded to members of the Swanage Lifeboat crew with special praise for the coxswain’s boat handling skills during a challenging rescue, in which a sailor’s life was saved.

Swanage Lifeboat coxswain Dave Turnbull and volunteer crew members Rob Aggas, Tom Greasty, Phil Palmer, Andy Redout and Sam Aggas have all been recognised for their part in getting urgent medical aid to a member of a yacht crew taking part in the Rolex Fastnet Race on Saturday 22nd July 2023.

Swanage life crew receive commendations for fastnet rescue Tom Greasty, Phil Palmer, Dave Turnbull, Andy Redout, Sam Aggas, Rob Aggas.

Swanage RNLI crew receive their certificates of commendation. Left to right: Tom Greasty, Phil Palmer, Dave Turnbull, Andy Redout, Sam Aggas, Robert Aggas

Multiple incidents

The famous 695 mile yacht race, started off from Cowes on the Isle of Wight on Saturday with a record-breaking 430 entrants heading along The Solent towards the Fastnet Rock, off Ireland, before finishing in Cherbourg, France.

But with winds gusting up to 46 miles per hour, heavy rain and challenging seas with waves of four metres, RNLI crews from Yarmouth, Poole and Weymouth, as well as Swanage, responded to multiple incidents during the opening few hours of the race.

More than a quarter of entrants had retired from the race by the end of Sunday 23rd July 2023.

Swanage’s all weather lifeboat was launched just before 5 pm on Saturday 22nd July 2023 initially tasked to respond to a Mayday call from a sinking yacht just west of the Needles on the Isle of Wight.

However the Yarmouth RNLI crew was able to respond so the Swanage crew was redirected to locate an emergency beacon that had been activated. That turned out to be a false alarm, however with the gale force winds continuing another yacht was now in trouble.

East of Swanage a yacht’s steering had failed causing the crew to lose control of the boat. A rope was thrown across from the Swanage lifeboat and the boat was towed back towards Poole Harbour.

Yarmouth RNLI rescue two people during Fastnet race

Crew members from Yarmouth RNLI also received commendations from saving two people from their sinking yacht

Serious head injury

So while it had already been a very challenging evening, the most demanding incident was yet to come.

A member of a crew taking part in the Fastnet Race had been knocked overboard and then dragged through the water by their lifeline until the yacht’s crew could get them back onboard.

The person had a serious head injury which required immediate medical attention and was slipping in and out of consciousness.

A papamedic from the coastguard search and rescue helicopter 187 had been unable to be lowered down onto the yacht due to the adverse weather conditions and it was now running out of fuel.

Once on the scene the Swanage all weather lifeboat asked the yacht to head into the wind to slow it down and reduce the boat’s motion as much as possible.

Swanage lifeboat rescue during Fastnet race

Rough seas during the Fastnet Race

Transferred onto the yacht

This made it easier for the lifeboat to come alongside the yacht and enable two casualty care trained crew members to be transferred onto the yacht despite the swell, along with a first aid kit and oxygen.

With the transfer completed the helicopter that had been overhead illuminating the scene then left to refuel.

It was now a question of how to get the injured person off the yacht and onto the lifeboat so it could quickly get them to an ambulance. The decision was made for the yacht to follow the lifeboat into the calmer waters of Studland Bay where a stretcher was passed across.

The casualty was carefully secured onto the stretcher and along with one of their crew mates, was transferred onto the lifeboat. The all weather lifeboat then headed to the ferry steps just inside Poole Harbour, where an ambulance was waiting.

The injured sailor was handed over into the care of the ambulance crew and the lifeboat was able to return to Swanage Lifeboat Station. By now it was nearly 11 pm, six hours after launching into extreme weather conditions.

Swanage lifeboat rescue during Fastnet race

One of the yachts rescued in the challenging conditions

“Outstanding seamanship”

George Wallis, who was the Swanage RNLI launch authority on the day, asked for the crew to be acknowledged due to the successful and safe rescue despite the difficult conditions.

George Wallis said:

“After already having spent several hours at sea that same day, the coxswain and crew demonstrated outstanding seamanship in challenging, deteriorating conditions over the evening, with the wind reaching gale force gusts and the seas building as it approached high tide with breaking waves in excess of four metres.

“The coxswain brought the boats together several times over the course of the rescue to transfer people and kit during which neither boat was damaged and no harm to personnel occurred. It is fitting that the dedicated training and commitment of these volunteers is recognised.”

Dave Turnbull at Swanage lifeboat

Swanage RNLI coxswain Dave Turnbull was praised for his boat handling skills

“Dedicated service”

RNLI chief executive Mark Dowie, acknowledged the part each crew member played in the rescue issuing personalised framed commendations. He said:

“I would like to express my sincere thanks on behalf of the RNLI for your dedicated service to Swanage Lifeboat Station.

“To Dave Turnbull, I would particularly like to commend your skilful boat handling in such challenging conditions, which enabled personnel and medical equipment to be safely transferred to the casualty vessel. As a result of your and your crew’s actions, one life was saved.”

Watch Swanage RNLI rescue

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