Rescuers reach 82-year-old yachtsman drifting in North Sea gas field


Coastguard rescuers have reached a solo 82-year-old yachtsman whose stricken vessel started drifting towards a gas platform in the North Sea.

The man raised the alarm at around 8.50pm yesterday evening when his vessel Harrier of Down suffered a mechanical failure in extreme weather conditions, with seven metre waves and gale force winds.

He got into difficulty in the middle of the North Sea, around 95 nautical miles from Lerwick in Shetland and 86 nautical miles from Norway.

The mechanical failure left the man unable to steer and his yacht, the 25ft Harrier of Down, began drifting towards the gas platform North Alwyn with 162 people on board. They also put out a distress call but the yacht did not collide with the platform.

Harrier of Down is thought to belong to 82-year-old Julian Mustoe, who has written a book titled Voyage Of The Harrier, about his circumnavigation of the world between 2001 and 2012, retracing Charles Darwin's journey in HMS Beagle.

The stand-by vessel Vos Prospector, from the Dunbar gas field, contacted Shetland Coastguard after picking up the solo yachtsman's call for help and a rescue operation was launched.

Vos Prospector tried to attach a tow line to the Harrier of Down but could not because of the weather.

Two helicopters were on stand-by in collaboration with the Norwegian coastguard, but the 82-year-old did not want to be airlifted from his yacht as he did not want to abandon it.

A Norwegian Coastguard vessel from Bergen arrived at the scene and will tow the yacht back to the city.

The man is English and it is thought he was travelling from Shetland to Bergen when he got into difficulty.

According to Mr Mustoe's website he planned to set off for the Baltic Sea in the summer, to conduct another historically informed cruise based on the territory and activities of the medieval Hanseatic League.