A busy week at sea for volunteer lifeboat crews dealing with Cowes race

Victory-class boat which sank in the Solent during Cowes Week. Its crew were rescued by the Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service
Victory-class boat which sank in the Solent during Cowes Week. Its crew were rescued by the Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service

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VOLUNTEER lifeboat crews have had a busy time dealing with incidents in the Solent during Cowes Week.

The independent Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service has been called on all week to rescue sinking boats and dismasted vessels in the regatta.

The service’s volunteer crew have all taken time off work to man the station since last Saturday.

They have been on the water for an average of five hours each day of the regatta and called to 14 incidents.

Operational vice chairman and coxswain Mike Allen said: ‘It’s certainly been one of the busiest ones that I have seen in my time here.

‘I have done three days this week and it feels like it has all blended into one long one.

‘There have been situations this week where there have been more incidents than there have been lifeboats.

‘But everyone has put in a lot of hard work and all of the volunteer lifeboats from around the area have done a really good job.’

On Monday the GAFIRS crew were called out to five separate incidents in five hours.

They were first sent to an 18ft sailing boat which had been dismasted south of Lee-on-the-Solent.

After dealing with the boat’s crew, the lifeboat volunteers were called to answer a distress call over reports of people in the water near Hill Head.

But on the way there, another Mayday call was received about a Victory-class sailing boat which was sinking in the Solent.

The three members of its crew were safely found taken back to shore.

Another Victory-class boat later suffered rigging failure and the GAFIRS lifeboat was called to tow them to Cowes.

The final call of the day was to reports of a dismasted yacht south of Lee-on-the-Solent but there was no sign of any vessel in distress.

Mr Allen added: ‘We ended up staying on the water for about four and a half hours.

‘It makes sense because if you’re likely to be called out again you might as well be ready.

‘But it is a long time for people to be standing up in the boat.

‘It meant we got praise for how quickly we were able to respond to the incidents, though.’

GAFIRS relies on donations from the public and is now appealing for money to help replenish medical equipment and stock used during the week.

For details visit gafirs.org.uk.