Every sailor's nightmare - no wind, engine fails, on the rocks

Blyth Spirit doomed but crew saved
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It's every sailor's worst nightmare - no engine, drifting onto rocks and no wind. A couple, said to be competent sailors, were dramatically plucked to safety from their yacht this week after it ran aground off the coast of North Devon in the UK. Hundreds of people gathered as the drama unfolded yards off shore on Torquay seafront, and various onlookers captured these dramatic images.

The man and woman, thought to be from Dartmouth, were lifted off by the RNLI after two attempts to get a line to the 32ft yacht failed. The Blythe Spirit had sent out a distress call after getting into trouble and being pushed towards rocks off the Torquay headland.

Brixham Coastguards launched the major rescue effort after receiving the SOS call at around 3pm. The search and rescue Sea King helicopter from the Chivenor Royal Marine base in North Devon, was scrambled but it was stood down before arriving on scene.

Large crowds gathered at Corbyn Head as the drama unfolded. The woman, believed to be a member of the Royal Dart Yacht Club and a competent sailor, was skipper. It is thought the couple had been cruising around Brixham and got into trouble as their boat, worth around £60,000, sailed around the Bay on its return to Dartmouth.

A Brixham Coastguard spokesman said: 'The yacht contacted us to say she was encountering engine problems as she approached Torquay Harbour and required assistance.

'We tasked the marina launch vessel and another yacht to assist.

'The launch vessel arrived at the entrance to the harbour but by the time it had established communications the Blyth Spirit had run aground at Corbyn Head.'

A distress call was issued and Torbay RNLI's inshore lifeboat, helmed by Nigel Crang, and the all-weather lifeboat with Richard Fowler as coxswain, were both scrambled.

Torbay RNLI spokesman Colin Bower said: 'The all-weather lifeboat was anchored off the headland and veered the inshore lifeboat towards the yacht on a line.

'Two attempts were made to get a line on to the stricken yacht, but the second time the line snapped.

'A decision was made to abandon that method and get the people off the boat.'

The couple were lifted onboard the inshore lifeboat, transferred to the all-weather lifeboat and were taken to Torquay Marina. They were assessed by a paramedic but did not require further medical attention.

Mr Bower said the couple were 'badly shaken and distressed' by the incident and were left in the care of friends.

He said further attempts to rescue the craft were abandoned because of the difficult conditions caused by the strong easterly winds.

He said: 'It was deemed too risky and left the scene.

'We would have loved to have rescued the boat but our philosophy is to save lives at sea. If we can save property then that is a bonus. But the most important thing is life.'