Giant Swan yacht no match for Atlantic storm

Two injured yachtsmen are ‘being assessed’ in the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro with suspected internal injuries, broken ribs a broken arm and ankle sprains after the Swan 65 they were sailing on was dismasted and holed in a storm Force 10, 480 miles south west of the Scilly Isles.

The pair – a woman and a man in their twenties – were airlifted aboard a USAF Jolly Green Giant CH53 helicopter, whose captain said later it was the most difficult rescue he had ever performed. He estimated the seas – which were continually lashed by rain squalls – to be 65 feet from crest to trough.

Spokesman for RAF St Mawgan, David Webster, said: ‘The crew managed to walk from the helicopter to the ambulance, but they looked cold and in a state of shock.’ A USAF paramedic had given them treatment aboard the chopper during the flight.

Two RAF Nimrods had earlier located the Swan – Persuader and maintained radar guidance and also a radio link with the two CH53s sent to make the rescue. These, in turn had to be re-fuelled in mid-air, by two Hercules KC130 planes SIX times.

Two ships also stood by the vessel, one of them supplying a wind-break for the airlift.

Five remaining crew members have set up a jury rig and are trying to motor-sail towards Falmouth, in Cornwall. Persuader, a Nautor Swan built in 1983 in Pietarsaari, Finland underwent a complete refit in 2001. She has a beam of 18ft 7ins and a draught of 11ft 5ins. She has a motor cruising speed of eight knots – in smooth conditions – with a Perkins 120 HP diesel. She has three cabins and a full beam saloon. She had been on passage from the Caribbean via the Azores to the UK.