Overboard yachtsman saved by call to Crediton Jewsons

  • 24 May 2013
  • From the section Devon
Media captionA yachtsman who went overboard is saved after his colleague called builders merchant Jewsons

A builders' merchant in land-locked mid Devon has helped rescue a yachtsman who went overboard off the French coast.

The Ilfracombe man was swept into the sea off Ushant, north-west France, on Thursday afternoon.

His colleague on the 32ft (10m) yacht Caprice could not understand the French coastguard, so called his Crediton builders' merchant who raised the alarm with Brixham Coastguard.

The yachtsman is being treated for hypothermia in hospital.

Chris Tucker, who works for Jewson in Crediton, said he was "a bit surprised" when his customer phoned him at about 15:00 BST.

"I'm not quite sure why he called me, but maybe he knew I'd be there and would have access to a computer and phone," Mr Tucker told BBC News.

"It was quite difficult to hear him because it was so windy, but he just kept repeating co-ordinates and times.

"He said he couldn't understand the French coastguards and they didn't understand him."

Mr Tucker said he had seen his customer on Tuesday so knew he was planning a sailing trip.

"He'd told me he was going on his friend's yacht and they were going to take it down to the south of France to leave it there for the summer, then get the ferry back," he said.

Image caption The Ilfracombe yachtsman was winched from the German warship and flown to hospital in France where is being treated for hypothermia

Mr Tucker stayed on the phone to his customer while Brixham Coastguards liaised with the French authorities.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the search for the missing yachtsman involved a French lifeboat, two search and rescue helicopters, a fixed-wing aircraft and with two naval vessels - from France and Germany - that happened to be in the area at the time.

He was rescued by the German warship and then airlifted to hospital in France.

"The man who fell overboard was wearing a lifejacket and also a type of wet suit, which undoubtedly saved his life," the MCA said.

Mr Tucker, whose actions were praised by Brixham Coastguard and Jewsons, said he was glad both men were safe.

"It wasn't sounding too good for a while," he said.

"Conditions were pretty damn rough, the yacht's engines had failed and the guy must have been in the water for about two hours.

"I don't think I did anything special - anyone would've done the same - I'm just happy they're okay."

The stricken yacht was towed back to harbour by the French lifeboat.

Peter Stringer, Jewson's managing director, said the company was extremely proud of Mr Tucker.

"Our people pride themselves on the close relationships they forge with our customers, but this instance highlights a truly exceptional case, demonstrating the trust the customer has with Chris," he said.

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