Norwegian sailors airlifted to safety as their yacht sinks off Shetland

A Coastguard photograph of the stricken yacht. Click on image to enlarge.
A Coastguard photograph of the stricken yacht. Click on image to enlarge.

Two Norwegian yachtsmen were airlifted to safety five minutes before their yacht sank after being damaged in heavy seas 80 miles east of Lerwick on Tuesday.

Their 30ft yacht, Serenity, got into difficulties at about 10am, when its sails became torn and damaged in force six northerly winds and rough conditions.

Although the yacht was out of radio range, the distress message issued by the men was picked up by north-east fishing boat Budding Rose, which notified Shetland Coastguard.

Coastguards considered asking the Budding Rose to tow the Serenity to safety, but sent the rescue helicopter R102 to investigate whether the Norwegians needed to be taken off the yacht. While the helicopter was en route the yacht fired a flare as the water had knocked out radio communication.

Once the helicopter was on the scene it became apparent the yacht was taking in water through a breach in the hull and the situation was dangerous.

The crew of the helicopter winched the men, Daniel Birkelund and Andreas Bernsten, both from Bergen, to safety. They were flown to Sumburgh, and then taken on to the Fishermen’s Mission in Lerwick. They did not require medical treatment.

Skipper Birkelund told BBC Radio Shetland that he and his crewmate had originally planned to stay on the vessel, but it quickly became obvious that they would have to get off.

The water had risen to the rim of the yacht and she was about to tip over. He said: “That’s when we took the decision that we should leave the ship. It sank about five minutes after we left it.” He praised the “professionalism” of the rescuers. 

Coastguards were later informed by the Budding Rose that the yacht had sunk at around 12.30pm

Neil Cummins, Shetland Coastguard watch manager, said: “Both of the crew from the sunken yacht were landed back to Shetland and fortunately both were uninjured and required no medical assistance.

“We are extremely grateful to the crew of the Budding Rose for all they did today [Tuesday] and keeping us informed of developments. We are now in the process of trying to arrange some accommodation for the two stranded people overnight before they can start making arrangements for tomorrow [Wednesday].”


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