Wildcats and Argus help stricken yacht in Biscay storm
Naval fliers and their training ship helped a British yachtsman when his boat was damaged by storms in the Bay of Biscay.
Wildcat helicopters from 825 Naval Air Squadron were scrambled from RFA Argus after an SOS was received from the Takita which had lost its mast as it headed to Britain from the Azores.
The fliers found nothing at the spot where the yacht was reported and then began a systematic search of the Atlantic where the strong winds and heavy seas might have carried the stricken vessel – or its sole crewman if he’d abandoned the Takita.
It was on the third sweep of the search that the aircrew spied the 30ft boat without its mast but still with its master.
It was absolutely extraordinary that the yacht was sighted considering the sea state, the size of the vessel, its white hull and that it was in the swell troughs for most of the time.Lt Cdr Chris Grey RN
“It was absolutely extraordinary that the yacht was sighted considering the sea state, the size of the vessel, its white hull and that it was in the swell troughs for most of the time,” said Observer Lt Cdr Chris Grey.
The broken mast had also carried away the radio transmitter which made communications difficult but it was clear that though damaged, Takita was still seaworthy.
She rendezvoused with the Argus, whose crew passed over jerrycans filled with fuel so the yacht could reach Brest in France for emergency repairs.
Argus, which doubles as a floating medical centre for the military and aviation training vessel, is being used by 825 Squadron to give rookie pilots, observers and ground crew experience of flying and maintaining the Fleet Air Arm’s newest helicopter at sea.