AT 7.20pm the volunteer crew were paged by the coastguard following an emergency call from a surfer whose friends had got into difficulty.
Launching in very difficult conditions the crew were informed that one surfer had made it ashore whilst the other was still in the water. After a short search they located the casualty near Cod Rocks approximately a hundred meters offshore from Trearddur Bay beach. Helmsman Lee Duncan said, ‘the conditions were treacherous with a strong south westerly blowing in excess of 50mph, we were operating right at the limit of the Atlantic 85 lifeboat.’
With a big swell compounded by the close vicinity of offshore rocks and the headland, Lee attempted to position the boat to make a run for the casualty whilst trying to avoid being broadsided by the heavy conditions. Leigh McCann, one of the crew on the shout said, ‘we spotted the surfer, a young female, as she was drifting quickly towards the rocks and getting hit by steep breaking waves, there was very little room for manoeuvre’.
Realising that they had only one chance to get to her before she was too close to the headland Lee turned the boat into sea and heading through the breaking swell bore down on the casualty as two of the crew reached overboard and pulled her into the boat.
Lee added later, ‘we had pretty much our most experienced crew on board, three helms and the lifeboat training officer and I think in my twenty years on the crew at Trearddur Bay that was possibly the most touch and go shout I have been on.’ Daf Griffiths added, ‘we knew that we had only one chance to get her with the size of the waves hitting the headland, had we failed I don’t like to think what could have happened, to her or us! Lee showed exceptional boat handling skills, it would have been impossible to make a second run.’
Having got the casualty safely on board, the volunteers had one more tricky task to negotiate. As a normal recovery onto the trailer was not possible, they had to perform a net recovery which involves driving the boat into the trailer on the back of a wave which is then ‘captured’ by a collapsing net.
The stations training co-ordinator, Mike Doran commented that, ‘under the most challenging conditions most of us have experienced on a shout, we succeeded in our task which is testament to all of the hard work put into training by everyone, it was a really great team effort.’
Lifeboat operations manager, Paul Moffett, added ‘I watched it all through the station’s binoculars, it was an incredible rescue and I have to say I am very proud of the boys, they did a terrific job and saved the life of a young lady.’
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.