Eight people have been airlifted from a yacht after it got into difficulty in “horrendous” weather off Porthleven in Cornwall, as Storm Claudio battered the south coast of the UK.

Penlee RNLI lifeboats and the Coastguard helicopter from Newquay were sent to help the 12-metre French sailing vessel, after it got into trouble approximately two nautical miles off Mounts Bay.

Force 10 winds from Storm Claudio had left the sails in tatters. The Penlee crew said they set off from Newlyn into “horrendous weather conditions” with “a screaming wind gusting force 10, driving heavy rain, rough seas and extremely poor visibility”.

James Instance, maritime commander at Falmouth MRCC, says: “They reported that a window broke at the water line, and they started taking on water fast. There were big seas last night and high winds; a very unfortunate time to find your vessel sinking, but they quickly called for help which gave us the time to get to them.

The Newquay helicopter was needed to winch the eight crew on board to safety. Photo courtesy of Bob Sharples Photography

“It was a particularly challenging rescue in the conditions, with time running out as the vessel drifted towards the rocks. The teams did very well to make quick and vital decisions to ensure everyone got back to shore safely.”

The vessel called a Pan Pan alert shortly before 8.30pm on Monday (31 October 2022) after losing its sail and starting to take on water, but that was quickly upgraded to a Mayday distress call as operational staff became aware of how perilous the situation was, and the yacht started drifting towards rocks.

At the time, the wind at nearby Gwennap Head was reportedly gusting up to 85mph (137km/h), with an average wind speed of 65mph (105km/h).

“In the most difficult and extreme conditions, whilst the lifeboat kept the yacht underway heading into the weather, the crew of Rescue 924 managed to winch the eight casualties to the safety of the helicopter,” says the Penlee crew.

The yacht pictured after its return to Newlyn.

The crew adds they “witnessed some amazing flying skills by the pilot and incredible determination by the winchman,” who rescued all eight people from the yacht.

The lifeboat was later able to tow the stricken vessel to Newlyn in the early hours of Tuesday (1 November 2022), despite it taking on more water.

“This was a difficult shout for our volunteer crew who dealt with some very challenging conditions both on deck, and on board the lifeboat,” says the Penlee crew.

Storm Claudio has caused damage and disruption across the country this week, amid torrential rain and strong winds. The RNLI has urged Britons to take extra caution by the coast today.

A couple were rescued by Swanage RNLI on Tuesday, when their luxury yacht ran aground off a sandbar in Poole and capsized in gale-force wind.

On Tuesday (1 November 2022), bunker barge Whitchampion got caught up in the gusts in Portsmouth Port and had to be assisted by two tugs.

Hovercrafts between Southsea and the Isle of Wight were also suspended yesterday evening due to adverse weather, although services are now currently operating on time. Red Funnel ferries between Southampton and the Isle of Wight were also suspended due to the weather.

Marine Industry News UK