Two competing yachts in the Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta were in involved in a rescue off Berry Head yesterday

The first day of sailing for the Port of Dartmouth Royal Regatta got off to a dramatic start on Wednesday when two of the competing yachts were in involved in a rescue off Berry Head.

While jostling for the start of the Baltic Wharf Passage Race in a north-easterly Force 5, John and Nikky Powell in their yacht Two Furlongs noticed a small speedboat towing an inflatable donut in the lumpy seas nearby.

John Powell commented: “I remember thinking how silly it was for such a boat to be out in those conditions, and when I next looked a few minutes later all I could see was the bows of the speedboat, and three people in the water.”

He radioed Brixham Coastguard to tell them of the problem, and turned to sail upwind of the stricken vessel. Fortunately, fellow competitor Chris Hitch also saw the drama unfolding and managed to get his yacht Nightowler upwind of the sinking speedboat and drift down on it to pick up the crew – two adults and a child – from the water.

With the survivors safely on deck Hitch then turned back to Brixham to set them safely ashore while Powell kept the authorities informed of progress, before both boats rejoined the start of the race. Regatta sailing director John Robinson said: “There is no doubt that if the race had not been starting when and where it did then these people could have been in serious trouble. It was great that John and Chris were able to effect such a good and safe rescue between them.”

Fortunately, Nightowler and Two Furlongs were still able to make the start gun on time and with the rest of the fleet whistled around to Dartmouth in record time to finish third and fourth respectively in the PY Category.

The Passage race was won by Rennie Mcarthur Miller’s Dignity which crossed the line ahead of the Swan 56 Noonmark VI (Mike Gilburt) and Les Playles’ Papillon third. On corrected times Dignity leads the five-day event while John and Kate Pollard in Xcellent hold second with the J-80 Aqua-J third.

Racing continues today with 282 boats racing in the range and river.