Breaking seas off Brighton Marina

A 32 ft yacht was knocked down and her skipper washed overboard as her crew were furling the mainsail in preparation for making port. Gale-force conditions and large breaking waves hampered the Contessa 32’s progress towards Brighton Marine when the accident happened.

Fortunately the skipper,Danny Oliver, was on a harness but the crew were unable to get him back aboard, so they put out a distress call. RNLI Brighton lifeboat were paged by Solent Coastguard who had received the call from the boat which was on passage from Hamble, heading to Brighton Marina in readiness for a yacht race the following day.

Mr Oliver suspended dangerously over the side, was unable to free himself and was battered by the wind and waves.

RNLI Brighton lifeboat launched within 7 minutes of being paged and within 10 minutes had battled the towering waves to reach the yacht.

Just three minutes later a volunteer crew member had been transferred to the yacht and the skipper was safely lifted back on board.

With the situation now under control, Brighton lifeboat escorted the yacht through the marina entrance and onto the safety of a visitors’ berth.

Given the horrendous conditions on scene RNLI Newhaven lifeboat, Solent Coastguard rescue helicopter ‘104’ and multiple mobile Coastguard units were also tasked to assist.

A spokesman for RNLI Brighton lifeboat said: ‘Praise goes to the crew of the yacht who during this extremely stressful incident in hostile conditions managed to remain calm throughout.

‘The sea in that area in such conditions is confused and steep and I think this incident highlights dramatically the importance of wearing a lifejacket and safety line when working on the deck of a yacht in these conditions.’

Danny Oliver, the skipper said: ‘I’m very thankful for the guys who turned out to help, they were very professional.’

Pic: Eddie Mitchell, lifeboatman