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Kinsale RNLI Crew Assists Solo Sailor After 52 Days at Sea

5th July 2021
Kinsale RNLI volunteers board the 51ft ketch to assist its solo-sailing skipper
Kinsale RNLI volunteers board the 51ft ketch to assist its solo-sailing skipper Credit: RNLI/Kinsale

Kinsale RNLI’s lifeboat launched on Saturday 3 July to help a solo yachtsman struggling at sea with damaged sails.

The yachtsman had left the Caribbean island of Carriacou on Thursday 13 May en route to the UK. But three weeks into the voyage, the 51ft ketch lost engine power, forcing the skipper to continue his 6,500km journey under sail.

He told his rescuers that his yacht was becalmed in the Atlantic for 10 days when the wind dropped. Then after he was able to resume his voyage, the sails were damaged, further hampering progress.

By the time the Irish Coast Guard became aware of his plight on Saturday morning, the vessel was travelling at just three knots per hour with no prospect of reaching its intended destination.

Kinsale RNLI’s volunteers tracked the vessel online throughout the day and grew increasingly concerned for its safety. At 6pm, the lifeboat was requested to launch by the coastguard to assess the situation, and the crew located the vessel off the Old Head of Kinsale.

Lifeboat helm Jonathan Connor placed crew member Felix Milner on board the stricken yacht and, after consultation, decided that taking the ketch under tow was necessary to assist the vessel to reach the nearest safe and suitable port.

Milner remained on board the yacht on the final leg of the journey to Kinsale Harbour to safeguard the wellbeing of the skipper, who was exhausted but uninjured despite his long ordeal.

After arriving into Kinsale at 9.15pm, the yachtsman enjoyed his first hot shower in over seven weeks before being reunited with his son and two daughters, who live in West Cork and were waiting for him on the pier.

Commenting on the rescue, the yachtsman said: “The RNLI Kinsale are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Their expertise and commitment leave me humbled. It is an institution I have always supported and will do so for the rest of my days.”

Kinsale helm Connor added: “It is a tribute to the yachtsman’s seamanship that he made a 6,500km voyage single-handed and remained calm and focused despite the many problems he encountered in the course of his journey.

“He is very fit and able but was clearly exhausted after 52 days alone at sea and it was the right decision to help him over the final hurdle and bring him safely to Kinsale.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in Ireland Information

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity to save lives at sea in the waters of UK and Ireland. Funded principally by legacies and donations, the RNLI operates a fleet of lifeboats, crewed by volunteers, based at a range of coastal and inland waters stations. Working closely with UK and Ireland Coastguards, RNLI crews are available to launch at short notice to assist people and vessels in difficulties.

RNLI was founded in 1824 and is based in Poole, Dorset. The organisation raised €210m in funds in 2019, spending €200m on lifesaving activities and water safety education. RNLI also provides a beach lifeguard service in the UK and has recently developed an International drowning prevention strategy, partnering with other organisations and governments to make drowning prevention a global priority.

Irish Lifeboat Stations

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland, with an operational base in Swords, Co Dublin. Irish RNLI crews are tasked through a paging system instigated by the Irish Coast Guard which can task a range of rescue resources depending on the nature of the emergency.

Famous Irish Lifeboat Rescues

Irish Lifeboats have participated in many rescues, perhaps the most famous of which was the rescue of the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship off Cork Harbour by the Ballycotton lifeboat in 1936. Spending almost 50 hours at sea, the lifeboat stood by the drifting lightship until the proximity to the Daunt Rock forced the coxswain to get alongside and successfully rescue the lightship's crew.

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895.

FAQs

While the number of callouts to lifeboat stations varies from year to year, Howth Lifeboat station has aggregated more 'shouts' in recent years than other stations, averaging just over 60 a year.

Stations with an offshore lifeboat have a full-time mechanic, while some have a full-time coxswain. However, most lifeboat crews are volunteers.

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895

In 2019, 8,941 lifeboat launches saved 342 lives across the RNLI fleet.

The Irish fleet is a mixture of inshore and all-weather (offshore) craft. The offshore lifeboats, which range from 17m to 12m in length are either moored afloat, launched down a slipway or are towed into the sea on a trailer and launched. The inshore boats are either rigid or non-rigid inflatables.

The Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland or the UK Coastguard in Northern Ireland task lifeboats when an emergency call is received, through any of the recognised systems. These include 999/112 phone calls, Mayday/PanPan calls on VHF, a signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or distress signals.

The Irish Coast Guard is the government agency responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue operations. To carry out their task the Coast Guard calls on their own resources – Coast Guard units manned by volunteers and contracted helicopters, as well as "declared resources" - RNLI lifeboats and crews. While lifeboats conduct the operation, the coordination is provided by the Coast Guard.

A lifeboat coxswain (pronounced cox'n) is the skipper or master of the lifeboat.

RNLI Lifeboat crews are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training that is delivered both locally and at the RNLI's Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset

 

While the RNLI is dependent on donations and legacies for funding, they also need volunteer crew and fund-raisers.

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