AN 82-YEAR-OLD solo yachtsman was rescued in severe weather yesterday after his vessel started drifting towards a gas platform in the North Sea.
The man raised the alarm at around 8:50pm on Tuesday when his vessel, Harrier of Down, suffered a mechanical failure in extreme weather conditions, with 23ft waves and gale force winds.
He got into difficulty in the middle of the North Sea, around 95 nautical miles from Lerwick in Shetland and 86 nautical miles from the coast of Norway.
The mechanical failure left the man unable to steer and his 25ft yacht began drifting towards Total’s gas platform Alwyn North, which has 162 people on board. They also put out a distress call, but the yacht did not collide with the platform.
Harrier of Down is thought to belong to Julian Mustoe, 82, who has written a book titled Voyage Of The Harrier, about his circumnavigation of the world between 2001 and 2012, retracing Charles Darwin’s journey in HMS Beagle.
The stand-by vessel Vos Prospector, from the Dunbar gas field, contacted Shetland Coastguard after picking up the stricken yachtsman’s call for help, and a rescue operation was launched.
Vos Prospector tried to attach a tow line to the Harrier of Down but could not because of the weather.
Two helicopters were on stand-by in collaboration with the Norwegian coastguard, but the man did not want to be airlifted from his yacht because he did not want to abandon it.
A Norwegian coastguard vessel from Bergen arrived at the scene to tow the yacht back to the city.
The man is English and it is thought he was travelling from Shetland to Bergen when he got into difficulty.
According to Mr Mustoe’s website, he planned to set off for the Baltic Sea in the summer, to conduct another historically informed cruise based on the territory and activities of the medieval Hanseatic League.
A Total spokesman said: “The Coastguard and Alwyn North’s emergency response vessel (ERV) offered support to the yacht.
“At all times the situation was closely monitored and under control by both the coastguard and the ERV.
“The Alwyn North platform did not go to muster and no plans were made for evacuation.”