'Hero' Hayling Island RNLI volunteers who saved three 'petrified' men from death after their boat was swamped by waves given rare honour

‘HERO’ RNLI lifeboat volunteers who risked their lives to save three ‘petrified’ men from a stricken boat that was being swamped by giant waves in treacherous conditions have been honoured for their bravery.

By Steve Deeks
Sunday, 27th February 2022, 9:45 am
Updated Sunday, 27th February 2022, 10:49 am

The three novice sailors on board the 25ft yacht 200 metres from shore were saved from ‘certain’ death as stormy seas and pulsating winds registering a Force 7 battered them when they were caught with no lifejackets in sandbanks off West Wittering Beach on June 28, 2020.

The dramatic rescue involved both of Hayling Lifeboat Station’s lifeboats with all seven crew working together to carry out the rescue in dangerous conditions.

With the picture looking bleak, volunteer Lloyd Pepperell, 24, threw himself from the RNLI’s D-Class boat onto the back of the yacht, which was ‘pitching violently and rolling uncontrollably’ with it in danger of capsizing and breaking-up.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Hayling Island RNLI crew saving three men on strickent boat off West Wittering. Pic: Lloyd Pepperell

Read More

Read More
Here's what has caused a Southsea road to be closed

Once onboard Lloyd found casualties with no lifejackets, radio or safety equipment.

The conditions were too perilous to remove the crew so with great skill the lifeboats established a tow and took the yacht and men to safe harbour.

At Hayling Island Sailing Club on Saturday, all seven crew received prestigious RNLI Awards for their bravery, skill and determination.

Hayling Island RNLI volunteers awarded for saving three men from stricken boat off West Wittering shore.

It is the first time in over 30 years Hayling Island Lifeboat Station has been recognised for an award of this magnitude. The last occasion was when two silver medals were awarded for the rescue of 17 people aboard the yacht Donald Searle on October 25, 1992 - putting in perspective the incredible feat of the volunteers.

For the rescue, the RNLI awarded Andrew Ferguson and Daniel Macpherson with the ‘thanks of the institution inscribed on vellum’ for their courage, determination, decision-making skills and boat-handling skills.

Lloyd was also awarded 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.

For their courage and teamwork during the service, vellum service certificates were given to Jack Anson, Thomas Lincoln, Sharon Swan and Eleanor Briggs - who flew back especially for the presentation from Canada where she has since emigrated to.

Lloyd said of the award: ‘I’m chuffed and very proud. The awards are for all the crew and everyone at the lifeboat station.’

Speaking of the rescue mission he said: ‘I did not realise how dangerous it was until we got back to shore.

‘All the training we had just kicked into place. It was second nature. We all worked as a team and it paid off.

‘When I jumped off the D-Class boat onto the yacht I didn’t really think. I was aware it was a hairy situation but was just trying to time the jump right at the point our boat was going down and theirs was coming up. I knew my crew had my back.

‘I was asking the men if they were ok and got lifejackets on them. I made sure their boat was not in serious danger…it was taking on water but not too much.

‘The men were petrified and were hiding in the cabin. One of them was being sick. They had no lifejackets or radio. They were novices with no experience of being on a vessel.

‘We certainly saved three lives that day.’

Lloyd said he was inspired to join the RNLI after he and his parents were saved by volunteers when their boat’s engine died at sea when he was a child. ‘I always wanted to give back so when I was 17 I decided to volunteer,’ he said.

‘I like to give back to the community and have grown up on the water and like adrenalin-fuelled things.

‘The crew is amazing and we all work together and have each other's backs.’

Daniel, the senior helm, said they knew ‘something was going to go wrong’ after earlier seeing the naive sailors in the newly purchased boat struggling before failing to anchor the boat in West Wittering.

Later in the day as the vessel got into serious trouble, the RNLI crew was asked to intervene by the Coastguard.

‘We could see it was a developing situation that day. We got a feeling it was going to really escalate so me and Andy made a plan on shore,’ he said.

‘None of us say we are putting our lives at risk…it’s what we train for.’

Daniel, who is a firefighter in Havant, said that at least with an emergency situation on land there is a moment when the dire situation eases but the ocean is a different animal entirely. ‘When you’re out there and it goes wrong, the sea just keeps on giving it,’ he said - explaining his pride at the award.

‘I am proud. We all play it down, it’s not what we do it for. We just want to maintain the safety of local people. I would hate it if I walked into a pub and heard someone had drowned because there was no lifeboat.

‘The volunteers have a great community spirit and we are like one big family who all come from different walks of life.’

Daniel’s mum Carole Sanders summed up the mood at the presentation where a rapturous standing ovation was delivered to the brave volunteers. ‘They are heroes,’ she said.

Mark Dowie, chief executive of the RNLI, said: ‘It’s an enormous privilege to be here today. I was a station volunteer before I started this job three years ago and these celebrations, where we are celebrating actual real bravery and skill, are incredibly special for the history of a lifeboat station and its community.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

Subscribe here for unlimited access to all our coverage, including Pompey, for just 26p a day.