Flotilla fire for British holidaymakers

Three British yachtsmen abandoned their £85,000 charter yacht for a liferaft when the boat caught fire on a flotilla sailing holiday in Greece.

The 22-year-old Plymouth University students, Mark Colston, Samuel Jones and Peter Simon, were sailing a Dufour 325, Sonia, from Levkas with Neilson Holidays, when they saw smoke coming from the companionway.

They used the yacht’s fire extinguishers to douse the engine compartment, but the fire continued.

‘That’s when we realised the blaze was coming from the stern cabin. It must have been an electrical fault,’ said Mr Colston.

‘We tried to stifle the flames by putting in the washboards.’

When the smoke turned from grey to black, they realised the hull itself was ablaze (see above).

They used the VHF radio to call up another flotilla boat and raised the alarm with flares and foghorn before abandoning the yacht for the liferaft.

Flotilla skipper Archie Smith, sailing another Neilson yacht, picked up all three crew, unhurt, from the liferaft.

Pip Tyler, overseas director for Neilson Sailing Holidays, told Yachting Monthly: ‘The boat is in 200m of water and we sent surveyors down to try and find out what caused the fire. We don’t know for certain, but we think it was an electrical fault.’

The company has 24 other Dufour 325s, which are all being checked over. Mr Tyler added: ‘This is rare. It is the first time in 30 years of organising sailing holidays that anyone has had to take to a liferaft. But they were very professional about it.’

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