Crew of stricken Clyde Challenger racing yacht recall rescue

HMS Dragon led the rescue effort to save the 14 crew of the Clyde Challenger racing yacht.

HMS Dragon led the rescue effort to save the 14 crew of the Clyde Challenger racing yacht.

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The crew of a racing yacht left stranded in the Atlantic for nearly two days have described the moment the vessel was battered in fierce storms.

The Clyde Challenger’s mast and rigging were destroyed as it was en route to Britain from the Azores, prompting a rescue operation by a HMS Dragon, Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer.

Although the 14-strong crew were safely transferred, the 60 foot-long yacht was scuttled in the ocean.

Roy Graham, the yacht’s 66-year-old skipper, said a large wave overcame the boat on Thursday evening while it was travelling in the mid-Atlantic.

Mr Graham, a veteran sailor from Prestwick in South Ayrshire, said: “We lost our mast and the rigging, that was the problem. We got hit with a rogue wave coming in the opposite direction.

“It hit us and knocked us over and dragged the crosstrees into the water, which dragged the mast into the water and snapped it at deck level.”

Mr Graham said four crew members were on deck at the time the wave hit and were submerged for several seconds as the yacht was momentarily knocked on its side, an incident that “probably felt like minutes” to them.

The Challenger, based at Kip Marina in Inverclyde, was on the homeward leg of the Ultimate Atlantic Challenge, a four-and-a-half month expedition, when it encountered difficulties. HMS Dragon, which was diverted 500 miles from a routine deployment, travelled a top speed of 30 knots to arrive the yacht’s position, some 610 miles southwest of Land’s end. A two-and-a-half hour-long rescue operation took place on Saturday afternoon.

Crew member Elizabeth Ligethy, from Glasgow, said she had been below deck and was thrown 10ft when the wave hit the yacht.

The 62-year-old, a member of Drumchapel and Clydebank Kayak Club who retired from her job at a Glasgow school shortly before setting off on a sailing tour last year, praised the Navy crew for the rescue, saying: “The hospitality extended to us just beggars belief.”

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