#strangfordlough – There is good news from Strangford Lough after a major incident during the GP14 Dinghy World Sailing Championships this afternoon. More than 200 people have returned to shore after 87 sailing dinghies were hit by stormy weather and gusts of up to 60mph. Apart from a few minor injuries – all crews from the 105 competing boats are safe and well after a squall capsized many of the world championship fleet in the first race of the week long event.
RNLI sources report that up to 20 sailors had been in the water with another 67 clinging to their boats.
The fast response of the emergency services is being widely praised. It is a normal part of dinghy racing in strong winds for capsizes to occur and all racing crews are familiar with righting techniques and in most cases largely capable of self–help.
BBC report at least ten people have been injured during the incident.
A major rescue effort was under way after about 80 sailing dinghies were hit by a sudden squall.
It is understood some boats capsized and up to 100 people, including children, may be involved. The Belfast coastguard said they believe all those in the water have been accounted for.
However, rescue units at the scene, including the helicopters and lifeboats, are carrying out further searches.
The injured are being treated by ambulances at the scene.
The Bangor and Portaferry Coastguard rescue teams, the Portaferry and Newcastle RNLI lifeboats, the Irish Coast Guard helicopter along with the helicopter from RAF Valley have been sent to the scene.
Belfast Coastguard was first contacted just before 2pm reporting that some of the boats had capsized, while others were struggling to cope in the strong winds and squally showers.
The Bangor and Portaferry Coastguard Rescue Teams, the Portaferry and Newcastle RNLI lifeboats, the Irish Coast Guard helicopter along with the helicopter from RAF Valley were sent to the scene, along with PSNI and ambulance crews.
10 people were injured, with some of them showing signs of hypothermia.
Liam Colquhoun, Watch Manager at Belfast Coastguard, said at 1600 hours:
"We have now been told by our rescue units on scene that everyone has safely returned to shore and that no one is missing.
"We believe 20 people ended up in the water after their boats capsized this afternoon, 10 of them requiring medical attention.
"The weather conditions on scene have been pretty treacherous, with winds gusting up to 60mph. We're very thankful that everyone has now safely returned."