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Praise for HMS Dragon crew after rescue of Clyde Challenger

The crew of the Clyde Challenger with members of HMS Dragon's ship's company who were involved in the rescue
12 February 2017
The crew of Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon have today been praised for rescuing 14 sailors whose yacht was wrecked in treacherous weather conditions.

HMS Dragon was diverted 500 miles away from a routine tasking to provide life-saving assistance to the crew of the 60ft Clyde Challenger racing yacht yesterday (11 February 2017) as they drifted in the Atlantic Ocean.

The yacht had left the Azores and was bound for the UK when the crew encountered strong winds and heavy seas. A rogue wave struck the vessel, snapping its mast and leaving those on board stranded.

The UK Coastguard first received an emergency beacon alert at 2000 on Thursday (9 February 2017) and several vessels responded to a call for assistance before an RAF C130 Hercules was scrambled to the scene on Friday morning to locate the yacht.

Attempts were made by passing merchant vessels to help the stricken yacht but these were unsuccessful. After sprinting at 30 knots through turbulent seas for 20 hours, HMS Dragon reached the yacht at 1430 yesterday afternoon and rendered assistance using her sea boats. All 14 of the yacht’s crew were rescued and brought on board safely.

There were maybe a few doubts in my mind but when I knew HMS Dragon was coming for us, I knew it was going to be a positive outcome. We are really pleased the Navy took up the challenge to come and rescue us

Clyde Challenger skipper Roy Graham

Those on board the yacht had fortunately suffered only minor injuries during the ordeal, but the yacht’s Master determined the Clyde Challenger could not be safely recovered to the mainland due to the damage it had received.

“HMS Dragon's contribution shows the Royal Navy is ready and prepared to work in all conditions to make a difference,” said Armed Forces Minister Mike Penning.

“This could mean rescuing stricken sailors as Dragon has done, or protecting Britain’s economy by securing sea lanes in the Gulf as HMS Daring is doing right now. Our Type 45 destroyers are versatile ships with world-class technology and our Armed Forces stand ready and able to meet any task they may face.”

Once safely on board HMS Dragon the relieved crew were given medical attention, hot food and the opportunity to call loved ones at home.

“We got hit with a rogue wave coming in the opposite direction,” said the yacht’s skipper, 66-year-old Roy Graham, from Prestwick.

"It hit us and knocked us over and dragged the crosstrees into the water, which dragged the mast into the water and snapped it at deck level.

“There were maybe a few doubts in my mind but when I knew HMS Dragon was coming for us, I knew it was going to be a positive outcome. We are really pleased the Navy took up the challenge to come and rescue us."

Once all 14 of the yacht’s crew were safely off the vessel, the decision was taken to scuttle the Clyde Challenger by opening the seacocks and leaving the engine hatch open.

“Within minutes of receiving the call we had altered course and were proceeding at maximum speed to intercept the Clyde Challenger,” said Captain Craig Wood, HMS Dragon’s Commanding Officer.

“At 500 nautical miles from our position she was a fair distance away and so it took an uncomfortable 20 hours to reach her in the rough seas but I am delighted HMS Dragon was able to provide vital assistance on this occasion and am rightly proud of the efforts of my sailors in rising to this challenge.

“It is down to the capability of our ship and the skill of the men and women on board that we could accomplish this rescue in extremely difficult conditions.”

Having completed the rescue mission, HMS Dragon will now continue towards Lisbon where the rescued sailors will be landed ashore.

“When we arrived on scene it was clear the yacht had lost its mast and looked in a pretty desperate state after nearly 48 hours drifting in the challenging conditions,” said 29-year-old Petty Officer Max Grosse from Northwood, Greater London, who is the Chief Bosun’s Mate on board HMS Dragon.

“We were however hugely relieved to see all 14 crew alive and well. Despite racing through the night we only had three hours of daylight remaining in which to safely remove the crew. HMS Dragon is fitted with two large sea boats capable of carrying six passengers each.

“We were able to use both boats to transfer the crew as quickly as possible. The prevailing weather conditions and notorious Atlantic swell made it enormously challenging though and really tested the skills of my experienced sea boat coxswains.”

The Royal Navy’s six Type 45 destroyers are world-leading, highly equipped air defence destroyers. Manned by a ship’s company of 190 and capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots they have been deployed on operations across the globe since 2010.

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