Hayling Island skipper rescues music group from France with 10 minutes to spare before quarantine deadline

A FISHING boat skipper from Hayling Island raced across the Channel to rescue a group of musicians and ensure they beat the quarantine deadline for returning to the country - and made it with 10 minutes to spare.

Sunday, 16th August 2020, 1:40 pm
Updated Sunday, 16th August 2020, 1:45 pm

Glen Cairns, 56, who charters the Valkyrie fishing boat, was ‘just finishing a job’ in Portsmouth Harbour when he received the rescue request on Friday morning. Normally accustomed to arranging Channel excursions to catch cod and pollock, Glen was surprised to find the Dunedin Consort on the other end of the phone.

The musicians, many of whom are from Scotland, were due to perform at the Lessay Classical Music festival that evening at Lessay Abbey in Normandy. After finding out via the 10 o’clock News on Thursday night that France was being removed as an air bridge destination and deciding the ‘show must go on’, the group was desperately trying to find a way to return to British shores before Saturday’s 4am deadline.

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The Valkyrie fishing boat moored in Cherbourg harbour.

Glen said: ‘They said they’d exhausted all possible avenues - they had even enquired about hiring a charter plane. After taking the call I asked my wife to drop off some supplies and I set off on the four-and-a-half-hour journey to Cherbourg. I set sail at around 3.15pm and arrived in France at 8pm. They were really appreciative of me making the journey to try and pick them up in time.’

Frantically trying to arrange a passage home was chief executive officer of Dunedin Consort, Jo Buckley. While the musicians knew there was a potential risk of quarantine they had decided to travel so as ‘not to let the event down’ and after six months of cancelled events, they said there was the ‘need to earn an income’.

Jo, 37, said: ‘We were supposed to be travelling back by Eurostar but when I called up I was told I was the 5,000th caller. When we went to bed on Thursday night we had all but accepted we would have to quarantine which was not ideal for the orchestra members, many of whom had work lined up.

‘It was on Friday morning when I decided to have one last look on Google and the idea of chartering a fishing boat. I spoke to Glen and we were so grateful he agreed to pick us up.’

Valkyrie skipper, Glen Cairns, rescued a group of musicians from France with just 10 minutes to spare before quarantine restrictions began.

However, with the concert finishing at 10.30pm and Glen’s boat moored in Cherbourg harbour it was still a race against time.

Jo added: ‘It was a bit of a dash. We jumped on the coach to Cherbourg and met Glen at the harbour at about 11.45pm.’

The eight musicians and their instruments were quickly ushered aboard the 11-and-a-half metre vessel which departed just before midnight (11pm UK time).

Members of Dunedin Consort Orchestra aboard Valkyrie fishing boat as they looked to beat Saturday's 4am quarantine deadline

Glen said: ‘It was a calm night and fortunately the wind was in our favour. With the 900 horsepower engine I was confident we would make it on time.’

Make it they did but with only 10 minutes to spare as Valkyrie took up her berth in Langstone Harbour at 3.50am.

‘We were very relieved’ said Jo.

‘The journey was very comfortable and Glen looked after us so well.’

Dunedin Consort Orchestra chief executive officer, Jo Buckley, in Lessay Abbey where the musicians had been perfroming.

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