The dramatic rescue involved both of Hayling Lifeboat Station’s lifeboats and the service says the call-out ‘saw the crews demonstrate exceptional teamwork and skilled boat handling in adverse conditions that threatened all three lives on board the vessel’.
The Coastguard requested the station to launch both its inshore lifeboats to a 25ft sailing vessel which was anchored on a lee shore near the entrance of Chichester Harbour.
Strong winds were forcing the yacht, which had no working engine, to breach in two metre high surf - and the conditions were worsening. Selsey Coastguard Rescue Team were there but unable to help the stricken occupants who were 200 metres offshore.
Watching from the lifeboat station, D class helm Andrew Ferguson and Atlantic 85 helm Daniel Macpherson realised both of the station’s lifeboats would be needed - the smaller D class that could get in close to the yacht in the shallow water and the larger Atlantic 85 to help recover casualties or undertake a tow.
At about 1.45pm on June 28 last year the Hayling D class lifeboat Jacob with Mr Ferguson as helm and Lloyd Pepperell and Jack Anson as crew, launched into a strong flooding tide in a breaking two-metre sea. Several times they lost sight of the yacht as the sea was so challenging. Although the casualty vessel was less than a mile away the conditions and submerged hazards meant it took 15 minutes to arrive with waves breaking over - and into - the lifeboat.
A few minutes later the station’s Atlantic 85 Derek Battle took to the water under the command of Macpherson with Sharon Swann, Elly Briggs and Thomas Lincoln as crew. Encountering huge waves, the more powerful lifeboat arrived a few minutes after the D class to find the yacht pitching violently and uncontrollably. The vessel was taking on water and in danger of capsizing and breaking up.
The perilous conditions meant it took three attempts for the D class to get close enough so Mr Pepperell could leap on board. He found the crew sitting in the cockpit and looking terrified. They were soaking wet from the waves which were breaking over the vessel and none of them was wearing a lifejacket, so three lifejackets were passed across from the Jacob.
A tow line was thrown across from the Atlantic 85, and the yacht’s anchor line was cut. The tow back to Chichester Harbour took about an hour.
Hayling Island lifeboat operations manager Jonathan Bradbury said: ‘This rescue was textbook, a testament to the skill and determination from the crew.’
‘Everything, the training, the maintenance (of the lifeboats) it all interlocked and worked perfectly,’ said Mr Macpherson. ‘Everything fell into place. We drill, drill and drill to perform. That day we needed to perform and the crew - and the boat - did’.
John Payne, RNLI director of lifesaving operations, said: ‘Strong command and leadership was clearly demonstrated, as well as extremely skilled boat handling in adverse conditions by both helms. Both lifeboat crews demonstrated exceptional teamwork and saved three lives.’
Helms Mr Ferguson, 46, and Mr Macpherson, 45, will receive the ‘Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum’ for their courage, determination, decision making skills and boat handling skills.
Mr Pepperell, 23, will also receive the ‘Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum’ for ‘his extreme selflessness and courage as well as stamina when boarding and acting independently on the casualty vessel’.