RNLI to give Gallantry Awards to crew who executed dramatic night-time rescue

The RNLI will give Gallantry Awards to crew members who executed a highly dangerous but successful rescue.

Bronze Medals for Gallantry will be awarded to boat helm Richard Clayton and boat crew Iain Dundas, while coxswain and mechanic Chris Winzar will be given a Thanks of the Institution inscribed on vellum.

All three members of the Salcombe RNLI lifeboat crew were central to the rescue of two sailors on a 25ft yacht in the early hours ofDecember 21, 2020.

RNLI crew members Richard Clayton (L) and Iain Dundas (R) and Coxswain Chris Winzar (centre) (RNLI Salcombe)

With low light, rocks and turbulent seas to negotiate, locating the sailors was just the start.

The water around them was too shallow to allow their lifeboat to get within 40 metres of the shore, so a different tactic was employed.

Two of the crew boarded the lifeboat’s daughter craft (Y boat) and manoeuvred it carefully to the frightened casualties, whose yacht was aground in a tight gully behind a tall outcrop of rocks.

Now with two more people aboard their Y boat, skill and courage was in order to move out of the gully they had entered as coastguard teams provided dim light from the cliffs above.

The skills of the two crew members on board ensured that the casualties were safely brought aboard the lifeboat, which arrived back in Salcombe at around 7am.

The RNLI does not give out awards for gallantry lightly

The crew’s awards will be presented at a ceremony in early 2022.

“The RNLI does not give out awards for gallantry lightly and to receive these is a great privilege both for the individuals and the lifeboat station,” said Salcombe RNLI lifeboat operations manager Andrew Arthur.

“This rescue was carried out in extremely challenging conditions and our crew demonstrated their unstinting commitment, boat handling skill, tenacity, leadership and decisiveness, as well as immense courage, bravery and selflessness, which ultimately saved the lives of two people.

“It should be noted that, had there been a catastrophic failure of any kind, like an engine failure or capsize, both the Y boat and crew were at risk of being swept by the tidal stream towards an area of extremely rough and dangerous seas off of Start Point.

“If this had occurred there would have been very little chance of a successful rescue of the two crew or the casualties on the yacht.”

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