A sailor was winched to safety from his liferaft by the RAF after an explosion on his yacht caused a major fire and his vessel to sink. The French yachtsman who was sailing from Iceland to the Netherlands lost almost everything in the blaze which happened 10 miles off the coast of Seaham, County Durham, at 5.50am. He contacted the Coastguard and RNLI volunteers launched two lifeboats from Hartlepool and one from Tynemouth to reach the 38ft long vessel. The Hartlepool crews were there in 35 minutes, by which time the vessel was well alight and an RAF helicopter was winching the sailor to safety from his liferaft.
Hartlepool RNLI coxswain Robbie Maiden said: "Fortunately the sailor was uninjured but it was very sad to see his yacht burn and then sink so quickly. We understand the boat was his home and he was sailing from Iceland to Holland, but it looks like he's lost nearly everything. He seems to have done all the right things in what must have been a very frightening situation. He launched the liferaft correctly and had everything he needed to keep safe, including a life jacket, flares and water. He's now being looked after by the Coastguard and we wish him well for his journey home."