French Route du Rhum skipper was airlifted to safety just before his yacht sank 3/11/06

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French skipper Didier Levillain of Class 3 monohullA Fond Contre la Spondylarthrite, in the Route du Rhum, sent out a May Day yesterday after his yacht began taking on water. He sent out a distress beacon after realising the pumps were unable to cope with the amount of water taken onboard.

Levillain said he is “feeling fine” after he was airlifted to safety by a Spanish helicopter and taken to La Corunna in Spain.

Levillain was rescued shortly beforeA Fond Contre La Spondylarthritesank.

The rescue was a fine example of the co-operation between international rescue agencies and services. The UK’s Falmouth Coastguard was alerted by CROSS Gris Nez (France) who co-ordinated the rescue. The French Coastguard then launched a Falcon 50 from the French Navy, which flew over the scene and pinpointed the sinking vessel’s exact position. This was relayed to the Madrid Coastguard, which sent a helicopter from La Corunna.

By 1445 yesterday it was established that the distressed yacht was situated approximately 160 miles from Cape Finisterre, and the nearest vessel was theSiegenna, approximately 50 miles north of the yacht . Although to reach theA Fond Contre La Spondylarthriteit would have to sail against the wind. It was confirmed by this time that the yacht was sinking and the French skipper Didier Levillain was in a dry suit and preparing to abandon the vessel.