Dramatic rescue of sailors from stricken yacht

The sea boats from HMS Dragon help the 14 sailors on the Clyde Challenger in the Atlantic ocean. Picture courtesy of Royal Navy.
The sea boats from HMS Dragon help the 14 sailors on the Clyde Challenger in the Atlantic ocean. Picture courtesy of Royal Navy.

Fourteen crew, including one from Northumberland, have been rescued from their damaged racing yacht.

The 60ft Clyde Challenger racing yacht lost its mast in a race from the Azores to the UK following days of strong winds and heavy seas.

It was left drifting for 48 hours before being rescued on Saturday afternoon (UK time) around 610 miles south west of Land’s End.

The Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon was diverted 500-miles to rescue the stricken yacht crew, which included Jenifer Matthews from Boulmer.

Working with UK and US aircraft as well as merchant shipping vessels, it was able to locate and rescue the crew - who were reported to be alive and well, some treated for minor injuries.

Petty Officer Max Grosse, the Chief Bosun’s Mate on board HMS Dragon, said: “When we arrived on scene it was clear the yacht had lost its mast and looked in a pretty desperate state after nearly 48 hours drifting in the challenging conditions.

“We were however hugely relieved to see all 14 crew alive and well.

"Despite racing through the night we only had three hours of daylight remaining in which to safely remove the crew. Luckily HMS Dragon is fitted with two large sea boats capable of carrying six passengers each.

“We were able to use both boats to transfer the crew as quickly as possible. The prevailing weather conditions and notorious Atlantic swell made it enormously challenging though and really tested the skills of my experienced sea boat coxswains.”

Once safely on board HMS Dragon the relieved crew were given medical attention, hot food and the chance to call loved ones.

Unfortunately the Challenger yacht, which was sheltered by a cargo vessel until the Royal Navy arrived, could not be recovered.

Owner Glenn Porter said: “Despite sustaining significant damage in the evening of Thursday, February 9, Clyde Challenger continued to provide safe refuge for her crew until they could be transferred with minimal risk off the yacht by the UK Navy.

"It is sad to see the loss of Scotland’s Clipper 60, she will be sorely missed by many.”

Captain Craig Wood, HMS Dragon’s Commanding Officer, added: “HMS Dragon’s ability to quickly respond to this sort of tasking in support of a multinational rescue effort shows the flexibility the Royal Navy’s ships and highly-trained people can bring to bear.

“I am delighted HMS Dragon was able to provide vital assistance on this occasion and am rightly proud of the efforts of my sailors in rising to this challenge.”