Lifeboat crew’s bravery awards
THE COXSWAIN and crew of the Islay lifeboat have been honoured for their bravery in rescuing a Russian yachtsman earlier this year.
The Islay boat responded to an emergency call- out in the early hours of the morning in February during appalling weather and sea conditions as they went to the aid of the vessel which was drifting in heavy seas during a galeforce storm.
THE COXSWAIN of Islay lifeboat and his volunteer crew have been recognised for their part in saving a sailor’s life during a severe gale.
Coxswain David MacLellan, 45, is to be awarded the RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry – one of the charity’s highest accolades – for his display of great skill and seamanship in an extremely arduous service.
His four crew members will also be recognised for their part in the rescue, an operation which lasted 18 hours.
Mechanic David McArthur, 41, navigator Thomas Coope, 30, and crew members Duncan MacGillivray, 31, and Peter Thomson, 37, will receive framed letters of thanks from the RNLI chairman.
Captain Martin Porter, of the Deep Energy pipe-laying vessel, will also receive a framed letter of thanks from the RNLI chairman and the owners of Deep Energy will be sent a letter from the RNLI chief executive.
Letters of thanks will be sent from the charity’s operations director to the pilot and crew of the rescue helicopter R100 and to Gavin Hyne, a crew member of Deep Energy. He is also a volunteer mechanic at RNLI Buckie station.
The Islay lifeboat crew had to contend with extremely challenging weather that included winds of nearly 60 knots, driving sleet and treacherous sea conditions as they helped a yacht that had struck rocks at Skerryvore Reef, 46 miles north-west of Islay, and then started drifting.
The volunteer crew tried several times to make the Russian yachtsman tie the tow rope to his boat but attempts floundered in the face of appalling weather and the yachtsman’s difficulty in understanding what was required.
Eventually the yachtsman left the drifting yacht and climbed aboard Deep Energy, from where he was airlifted to safety. The Islay lifeboat Helmut
Schroder of Dunlossit II had left station at 12.45am on February 16 this year and returned at 6.20pm.
David MacLellan is judged to have displayed ‘exemplary situational awareness’ throughout the incident and his crew all acted courageously with determination and selflessness.
The RNLI said that the official thanks for the emergency services and the pipe-laying vessel highlight the support given during very challenging conditions. Captain Porter did a ‘remarkable job’ in positioning his 195m vessel alongside the 15m yacht while Mr Hyne used his skill and training as an RNLI volunteer to assist with the transfer of the yachtsman from the ship’s deck to a coastguard helicopter.
Mr MacLellan said: ‘Everything was being thrown at us that night and day; the crew were fighting fatigue, the conditions and the fact the yachtsman did not seem to understand what to do. The crew were absolutely fit and dealt with such a demanding job on the deck.
‘You don’t think of medals when you are bouncing up and down in the waves but it is good to have recognition for the station. We are not the busiest station but when something really nasty comes along, the lifeboat is there to make a difference.’
George Rawlinson, RNLI operations director, said: ‘This was an extremely arduous service for the coxswain and crew of the Islay all-weather lifeboat. It involved considerable risk and the coxswain displayed great skill and seamanship to ensure its successful conclusion.
‘His determination, leadership and judgement ensured his crew remained safe while giving the best possible chance of survival for the sole occupant of the yacht.
‘The master of the PLSA Deep Energy was instrumental in finally effecting the safe evacuation of the sailor from his stricken vessel.’
David MacLellan, inset, and the crew of the Helmut Schroder of Dunlossit II, main picture, rescued a Russian yachtsman.