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‘Tis the season to be rescued…

I don’t know why, but for the past month the newspapers seem to have been full of dramatic stories about sea rescues around the world, from the Bay of Biscay to the middle of the Southern Ocean.

Late October to early November have seen the start of a number of major sailing events, including the Route Du Rhum, the Volvo 5 Oceans and the ARC Challenge 2006 – all of which have been hit by the extremely stormy weather that we all have been experiencing.

Take the case of Charlie Capelle, for example. He was racing the trimaran ‘Switch FR’ in the Route Du Rhum race from Saint-Malo to Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadaloupe when he capsized 215 nautical miles off Cape Finisterre. Fellow competitor Philippe Legros, aboard `Cote d'Armor', reached the stricken yacht first, and managed to get Capelle safely on board.

Then late last month came the even more dramatic news that ‘Hugo Boss’, an Open 60 skippered by Alex Thomson in the tough single-handed round the world yacht race known as the Velux 5 Oceans, had also capsized, leaving the boat with a severely damaged keel in the middle of the Southern Ocean.

Again a fellow competitor came to the rescue, this time in the form of Mike Golding who, despite lying second in the race, turned his boat, Ecover, around to sail 80 nautical miles upwind to reach Thomson.

In difficult conditions, in 20 – 25 knots of wind and with a dodgy engine, Golding finally managed to get Thomson aboard – but only after Thomson was forced to set himself adrift in his life raft. The C sat transmission stream sent by Hugo Boss stopped a day or so later, indicating that the boat has now sunk.

But the drama was not yet over for the two men – a mere five hours after the rescue was completed Ecover suffered its own disaster, when the mast snapped in two places. Working together the two men managed to fashion a jury rig and left the race to head towards the safety of Cape Town. They have since arrived, but Golding has now also retired from the race.

Not to be outdone, I have to admit that I have also achieved notoriety following a rescue! It has not, I hasten to add, anything to do with sailing, nor even water, although I was wearing a Henri Lloyd sailing jacket at the time …

The drama unfolded one wet and windy morning, when we joined the usual gaggle of kids swarming school-wards and… came to a halt. Something was happening ahead, just next to the lollipop-lady. Something small – two somethings small – were running about on the road, dodging the hands of the children and heading for the even busier main road just ahead. It was two small kittens!

One took refuge under a car, while the other ran straight past my feet. I picked it up, marched over to its owner’s house, and handed it over. Then I went back to get the other.

Crisis over, the kids continued their stroll down to school. All except for one little girl from Primary Two. Eyeing me with awe, she tugged at her mum’s sleeve, and whispered softly.

The mum looked over at me and laughed.

‘You’ve cracked it now, Helen,’ she said. ‘Kirsty is so impressed at your rescue, that she’s going to write about you in her school diary!’

Fame at last!

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