Formal training procedures for one of the the worlds toughest boat races was put to a real test on February 12 when the skipper of one of the Challenge Business boats, Jon Crawford, along with mate Joanne Summers and their nine-strong crew, took part in a dramatic rescue near the Needles, Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. The Challenge Business boat was on a 10-day training cruise, training crew volunteers for the 2004-2005 wrong-way-around-the-world Global Challenge when it was alerted, via Pan Pan and then May Day distress signals, to an incident in the channel at 2100 GMT.
Captain Crawford immediately diverted the boat to the position given by the Solent coast guard, approximately 20 miles south of the Needles and, in the middle of the night, located a man in a life raft with a helicopter sweeping overhead. Crawfords crew immediately set about retrieving the man–Martin Taylor, in his mid 40s–who was pulled off the life raft to the safety of the Challenge vessel. The crew, coincidentally, included two medical doctors and a physiotherapist. The boat then made for Southampton, arriving there at 0600 GMT February 13, where it was met by the Solent coast guard.
Taylor had been part of a two-man crew aboard the yacht Lycaena, which is believed to have hit a submerged object and sank. The owner of the yacht, Mark McCleod, was pulled from the life raft and safely airlifted by the helicopter.
“Well, what a night!” Skipper Crawford exclaimed. “We were just returning from a training sail across from France when we heard the distress call. This was the fourth training session for this wave of crew volunteers, so theyd had a great deal of practice in man-overboard and rescue techniques, but here it was, a baptism under fire!
“The guys onboard were excellent. I was able to stay on the helm knowing a smooth operation was taking place on deck, as they quickly and calmly retrieved the man. Im just glad we were so close to assist and had such an excellent crew on board. Martin was obviously shaken by what had happened, but was in pretty good spirits. We made sure he was comfortable in one of the bunks before making our way back to Southampton as quickly as possible.”
For more information about this rescue and the Challenge Business ocean-sailing events, contact the Challenge Business at its website, www.challengebusiness.com.