Eight rescued in capsizing drama

EIGHT people had to be rescued by an Essex lifeboat crew after squally weather caused a flotilla of dinghies to capsize.The drama unfolded at 1.15pm on Saturday when bad weather and a high tide coincided.

EIGHT people had to be rescued by an Essex lifeboat crew after squally weather caused a flotilla of dinghies to capsize.

The drama unfolded at 1.15pm on Saturday when bad weather and a high tide coincided.

Goldhanger Sailing Club was enjoying an afternoon dinghy race when sudden strong gusts of wind caused the dinghies to capsize, plummeting their sailors into the water.

The sheer numbers overwhelmed the rescue boat travelling with the racers and West Mersea Lifeboat was called. It assisted eight people in four of the dinghies and stayed with the group to make sure everybody got back safely.

The lifeboat and crew had just returned to the station when the next call from the coastguard came in - another squall had hit and two sailboarders off Coopers Beach were in trouble. The lifeboat was quickly on scene and the two exhausted and windswept casualties were taken onboard and landed safely on the beach at Waldergraves.

The lifeboat had just enough time to get back to the station and refuel when the third call of the day was received. This time it was a 26-foot sailing yacht that needed help. The yacht Catherine of Cologne, which had three people on board, had suffered an engine failure off St Peter's Flats at the entrance to the River Blackwater and needed towing to safety.

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The lifeboat crew were in the process of taking the yacht to safety when the fourth call was received. Another sailboarder was in trouble but this time it was because there was not enough wind. The man was trying to swim ashore pulling his sailboard behind him. He had been spotted by a passer-by off The Esplanade.

The lifeboat quickly put the yacht they were towing on a temporary mooring and went off the help the sailboarder. After they made sure he was safe they continued to tow the yacht to safety.

The crew finally made it home to their families at 8pm.

Yesterday at 4pm the Brightlingsea harbour launch Dracula, assisted by the Mersea coastguard team, went to the rescue of a windsurfer in difficulties off East Mersea. Friends had raised the alarm after he was three hours late returning and he was taken to safety by the harbour launch.

n On Friday, cramp made a swimmer swallow salt water and led to a dramatic rescue involving coastguards, an inshore lifeboat and the Essex Air Ambulance.

Bradwell Coastguard was called at 2pm after passengers on the Thames Barge Xylonite went swimming near Osea Island in the River Blackwater.

The 23-year-old man from south Essex had developed cramp while swimming. He started struggling and swallowing water. Other passengers saw he was in difficulty and pulled him back on board the barge.

The West Mersea Lifeboat was launched and the Essex Air Ambulance took the man, suffering from mild hypothermia, to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford from Osea Island.

The Xylonite is owned by the Maldon-based Cirdan Sailing Trust, which organises adventure and sailing trips for under-privileged children. Chief executive Nick Back said after a couple of hours the man, who was on a charter trip, was back enjoying himself on the boat again.

He said: “We have strict safety regulations when people swim, like putting the dinghy in the water to accompany them.”

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