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Commando gunners rescue yacht crew off Tenerife

11 December 2017
Commando gunners from Plymouth saved five yachtsmen off Tenerife when their boat capsized.

The Tyger lost her keel and turned over in a matter of seconds a few miles off the southern tip of the Canary Island, throwing her crew into rough seas - only for troops from 29 Commando Regiment to pluck them out of the water.

The soldiers, normally based at Plymouth's Citadel, provide artillery support for the Royal Marines, but eight of them, led by the unit's Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Neil Wilson, were on an adventurous training expedition in their yacht St Barbara when they watched the Tyger turn turtle.

The men immediately sent out an SOS, then motored to the scene against 10ft waves.

"As we got closer we saw some bodies in the water - at first it only looked like three, but by the time we got to them they had separated from each other a fair distance," said Lance Bombardier Luke Templeton.

"We shouted over to them how many there was and the skipper with a German accent confirmed there were five."

We had an immense struggle pulling them in by hand, but between Mate John Johnston and me, we got them back into the back of the boat pretty rapidly

Lance Bombardier Luke Templeton

St Barbara sailed around the upturned hull until the other two crew had been sighted - one had been trapped briefly under the upturned hull until freed by a shipmate - and then began hauling the sailors from the Atlantic.

"We had an immense struggle pulling them in by hand, but between Mate John Johnston and me, we got them back into the back of the boat pretty rapidly," said Luke.

"Our arms were burning and our hands on the verge of bleeding from rope burns.

"The female who was clearly in a lot of shock couldn't compose herself and climb up the ladder so we had to haul her up on to the deck with brute force."

The whole rescue lasted took less than 30 minutes.

St Barbara then raced into the nearest port, of Las Galletas, where British and Dutch yachtsmen were waiting to offer dry clothes, warm drinks and even cash to the Tyger's crew - a mix of Swiss and Germans - before the emergency services arrived on the scene.

"The fact that the five casualties spent so short a time in the water and were all safely recovered with no physical injuries is testament to the cool-headed, professional actions and speedy responses of the entire crew. A truly magnificent effort by all involved," said Lt Col Wilson.

"They were all very shaken and the female, in particular, was suffering from shock, but the harbour authorities took good care of them and we bade them farewell. They were most grateful."

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