01/02/2013 07:55 GMT

Young Sailor Unity Bowns Honoured For Courage After Father Collapsed At Sea

An 11-year-old girl has been praised for her courage for taking the helm of a 24ft (7.3m) yacht and sailing it to safety after her father collapsed on board.

Unity Bowns and her father, Matthew, from Emsworth, Hampshire, were anchored aboard the Achilles 24 boat off Hayling Island, when Mr Bowns started to suffer chest pains.

The 58-year-old recognised it as gallstone-related but the pain increased and he collapsed.

Unity, a junior member of the Emsworth Sailing Club, decided to take over and weighed anchor and used the outboard engine to power the boat back to Emsworth.

A spokesman for the sailing club said: "Unity brought the boat back to the town pontoon, avoiding other traffic as she had been taught but had never had to do alone, and phoned her mother, Rachel.

"'He's still breathing - I can hear him groaning,' Rachel heard her say."

Now Unity has been nominated for the Royal Yachting Association's regional young sailor of the year award and has been presented with a certificate in recognition of her "courage and fortitude in an emergency".

Unity told the Portsmouth News: "It was a bit scary knowing that Daddy might be in trouble.

"I wasn't really sure what to do so I phoned Mummy but it did feel a bit like I was on my own."

When they arrived ashore, Mr Bowns was taken to St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, where he was diagnosed as having gallstone pancreatitis for which he later underwent an operation.