Solo sailor's mast fall death leads to £20 million drug find

Scene of mast fall tragedy - yacht Windrose, photo by Scilly Today
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Last week we published a story of the death of a sailor who fell from his mast after Customs had boarded his yacht, Windrose, which had been towed into port in the Scilly Isles after calling for help. At the time what had occurred on the yacht was a mystery, and the authorities weren't talking. Now the mystery appears to have been solved.

The yacht, according to the Border Force, had drugs with a street value of around £20 million on board.

The Border Force boarded the 11m (36ft) Windrose on Monday 17 June after it was towed into St Mary's quayside, Isles of Scilly, by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

The solo sailor, a 62-year-old Dutch national, fell from the mast during the time the officers were on board. They had been on board for around two hours before he climbed the mast. He was airlifted to hospital but died later from his injuries.

At the time St Mary's Harbourmaster Dale Clark described the incident as a 'very sad, shocking tragedy' and dismissed reports that there had been a chase before the fall. It nevertheless, to this cruising sailor, it seems a strange thing for a sailor to do - climb the mast - when there are customs officers on board.

After the sailor's death the vessel was taken to Newlyn in Cornwall, where a search found 200kgs of the Class A drug cocaine.

A Border Force spokesman has since said: 'Following a search of the yacht, Windrose a substantial quantity of cocaine, approximately 200 kilos, was found.

'It is estimated that the drugs could have had a potential street value of around £20million.

'The drugs have now been removed from the Windrose and taken to a secure location for further analysis. An investigation is ongoing.'

The incident has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which investigates public bodies with policing powers, which is yet to decide if a full investigation is necessary.

The solo sailor is believed to have sailed into United Kingdom waters from Lagos, Portugal in the steel-hulled yacht.