Mini sailor comes acropper

Rescue after dismasting off Falmouth

Monday February 3rd 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
Jake Jefferis the 21 year old solo sailor from Chichester, West Sussex suffered a technical set back on Thursday evening while sailing to Falmouth from Plymouth aboard his Mini. At around 1930 Jefferis was sailing his 21ft yacht in force 6-8 northeries about 10 miles ESE from the entrance to Falmouth harbour when a rigging failure caused his mast to collapse.

Not being able to contact the coastguard because the marine radio antenna was lost with the broken mast and drifting back out to sea due the increasing offshore wind, Jefferis activated his McMurdo-Pains Wessex EPIRB, alerting the Falmouth Coastguard to the situation and his position. A RAF helicopter was scrambled from RAF Culdrose and Falmouth RNLI Lifeboat joined in the rescue operation.

Jefferis was taken aboard the RNLI Lifeboat at 2036 and brought to Falmouth. The boat has been picked up and towed back to Falmouth. He is safe and well and in excellent spirits considering the predicament he was in. Talking with family shortly before the incident he reported “ I am having the sail of my life”.

The conditions Jefferis was sailing in he feels were within the capabilities of himself and the boa, until the crucial piece of rigging failed, leaving his mast and sails in the water.

Jefferis and his team are obviously upset that this has happened, but they are happy that it happened so close to home with the excellent emergency services so close to hand. Jake was planning to leave Falmouth in the next couple of weeks for a gruelling 1000 mile, solo qualification course in the Bay of Biscay. Had the rig been not lost further out to sea the outcome could have been very different.

The concentration of effort will now be focused on getting a new mast and rig fitted to the boat, tested and working so that Jake can leave as soon as possible on his qualifier for the Mini Transat. Jake and his shore team have these matters in hand and are hoping that this incident has not disrupted Jake's programme too much.

Jefferis are now doubling his efforts to secure sponsorship for this project. Anyone interested should contact 01243 573629 or email Jefferis and his team would like to thank the Coastguard and the RNLI in Falmouth. McMurdo-Pains Wessex for their kind sponsorship in providing Jake with the emergency beacon (EPIRB) which he used to raise the alarm.

Editor's note

While we are pleased that Jake is safe and sound and he has recovered his boat, this is exactly the type of incident that helps give solo offshore racing a bad name and could conceivably end up with it being banned.

Jefferis is new to the Mini class having a background in Laser 5000 sailing - so what was he doing out in a gale?

In the gale force conditions with the boat being blown offshore contacting the coastguard was certainly prudent, but he should have done so via VHF - having a spare VHF antenna or a waterproof handheld on board is mandatory safety equipment for all Mini races. That way he could have discussed his situation with the coastguard in Falmouth and possibly saved scrambling the chopper.

What's your view on this incident? Email

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