Sunderland rescuer saves the day in Iceland

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A WEARSIDE lifeboat volunteer was called into action to rescue a stranded yacht in freezing waters off Iceland.

Ben Mitchell, who is a crew member with Sunderland RNLI, was taking part in an exchange programme when he spotted sailors on board the 12-metre vessel waving for help.

The three-man team and an instructor were returning from a training exercise in “moderate-to-rough” seas when they was forced to divert their lifeboat.

Once on board the yacht, they were told by the two-man crew that their craft had lost power and were unable to raise the main sail.

Ben, from Sunderland, and his colleagues swiftly set up a tow to take the yacht into the wind so that her crew could lower the head sail and make it back to Reykjavik harbour.

“I was very happy to be able to assist in an actual rescue while in Iceland,” he said.

“Although I can’t speak any Icelandic, it just proves that teamwork is universal.”

As part of the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) exchange, seven lifeboat crew members representing rescue organisations from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany and Iceland have spent a week in Britain at the RNLI HQ, in Poole, Dorset.

The group took part in a varied training programme which included lifeboat, lifeguard and hovercraft exercises.

“It was a real honour to be selected to take part in the exchange programme,” said Ben.

“It was an invaluable opportunity to be able to share knowledge and skills with people from other rescue organisations from within Europe.”

The RNLI, the charity that “saves lives at sea”, and its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

It operates from 236 lifeboat stations, has more than 1,000 lifeguards on 180 beaches and operates a specialist flood rescue team.

Tens of thousands of dedicated volunteers also raise funds, give safety advice, and help in museums, shops and offices.

For more information about the charity, visit www.rnlisunderland.org

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