Clifden RNLI’s new all-weather lifeboat was put to the test on Friday, September 20, as part of a rescue mission of a lone sailor in difficult weather conditions. 

The new Shannon-class Brianne Aldington joined the Atlantic 85 Joyce King to go to the aid of a lone sailor who had gone ashore on Inishark. His 25-foot yacht had engine failure southeast of the island and was being smashed against the shoreline under the cliffs further southwest, where he had managed to make his way ashore.

The volunteer crews were on the scene within 25 minutes of the call from the Coast Guard, and quickly located the yacht under the cliffs and spotted the skipper waving from the rocks above. The next step was to try to put a crew member ashore to assess the situation. 

Helm Alan Pryce on the Joyce King conducted a veering down manoeuvre, which involves positioning the boat safely in difficult weather conditions by dropping anchor and using the rope and tension to keep the boat steady. 

The Shannon lifeboat simultaneously provided some shelter from the southeast force 8 offshore wind and crew member Ian Shanahan was able to go ashore safely and assess the situation. 

The casualty appeared well but had sustained minor injuries, so the Rescue 118 helicopter winched them both from the island and the casualty was transferred to Castlebar General Hospital. The severity of the weather meant that the yacht could not be recovered safely. Both lifeboats returned to station at 7.20pm. 

Coxswain James Mullen said: ‘This callout was a very serious situation for a lone sailor whose equipment had failed and, luckily, he was able to raise the alarm by mobile phone. It really put into practise all of our combined training and seamanship skills and the rapid response times of both boats was remarkable. This was the first callout with the new Shannon Class lifeboat fully involved and it was great to be able to work together so well and effectively.’