TEN volunteers from the RNLI’s Penarth and Barry Dock lifeboat stations have been honoured, after a courageous rescue in difficult conditions.
The highest accolade that the RNLI can award - the ‘Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum’ - was presented to Penarth volunteer crew members Jason Dunlop and Aran Pitter.
Fellow crew members Karl Lawrence and Jennifer Payne were awarded Vellum Service Certificates.
Barry Dock volunteers were also honoured, with Martin Bowmer set to receive a letter of appreciation from RNLI Chief Executive Paul Boissier; while Coxswain Hugh ‘Spud’ Davies and crew members Joshua Brown, Russ Carter, Marc Gibbons and Chris Osborne will receive a collective letter of appreciation signed by RNLI Operations Director Michael Vlasto.
The awards come in recognition of the crews’ lifesaving efforts during a call-out to a lone yachtsman in rough seas. Jason Dunlop, of Milton Road, Penarth, said: "We don’t do these things to get awards, we do them to try and make a difference in terms of saving people at sea.
"But it’s an honour and a privilege for the team, as the RNLI don’t award many of these.
"It’s also recognition for our stations, as lifeboats don’t launch on their own - there’s a shore effort as well.
"That is highlighted by the fact that everyone stayed there on the night to make sure we came home safe."
Jason, who is chief executive of Cardiff University Student Union and has been in the RNLI for nine years, said the rescue itself was ‘physically exhausting’.
"We had to make our way back in worsening conditions," he said.
"Waves were breaking all over the boat. It was a bit like sitting in a car wash for an hour and 20 minutes!"
Aran Pitter said the night’s events were ‘very testing’.
"It was probably the most extreme service I have done by a long way," he said.
"Jumping aboard the vessel was tough, and Jason had to make a number of attempts."
He described his award as ‘a real honour and a privilege’.
"There are not many given out so it makes it very special," he added.
"But the real satisfaction comes from saving the casualty and his vessel, and that’s reward enough."
Hugh Davies of Barry Dock RNLI, Coxswain of the Barry RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat, said: "We have an all-weather lifeboat, so the conditions affected Penarth more than us.
"It’s great to work with another team and support them."
Hugh, 37, has been part of the RNLI for 19 years, and said helping the stricken yachtsman was their priority.
"The guy was totally overwhelmed," he said.
"It was a good rescue at the end of the day. Rather than a boat broken down, you come back feeling that you have achieved something."
Matt Crofts, Deputy Divisional Inspector of lifeboats for Wales, praised the efforts of both crew.
"It is clear that given the weather and sea conditions, Penarth lifeboat was operating at the upper limits of her capability," he said.
"The crew showed superb seamanship throughout, especially in the transfer of crew members to the casualty vessel.
"Those crew members did an excellent job in stabilising and subsequently sailing the yacht back to Barry. The awards are thoroughly deserved."
Phil Dutfield, lifeboat operations manager for Penarth RNLI, said he was grateful for the 'good will' of the crew members’ various employers, who allow them time off for training and shouts.
THE RESCUE IN May last year, a seven-metre yacht ran into difficulty close to Lavernock Point.
Penarth’s Atlantic 85 lifeboat and Barry Dock’s all-weather lifeboat worked together to save the life of the lone sailor who was in serious peril Penarth’s inshore lifeboat launched at 8.48pm into north-east force 7 winds, in a rough sea with a large swell of 2.5 metres.
On arrival, the crew found the yacht was massively overpowered and heeling to a point of almost broaching (rolling over on its side).
Helmsman Jason Dunlop placed crew member Aran Pitter on board, and began to manoeuvre the lifeboat alongside the yacht – extremely difficult due to the sea conditions.
Once aboard Aran reduced the yacht’s speed and angle of heel, although she was still pitching heavily on rough seas.
When Barry Dock’s all-weather RNLI lifeboat arrived on scene, it was decided that an additional crew member from Barry would be transferred to the yacht, with Martin Bowmer helping Aran to stabilise the yacht.
After the rescue the yacht was safely set on course to Barry, whilst the Penarth inshore lifeboat encountered worsening seas, and helmsman Jason Dunlop continued towards Cardiff to seek shelter in the locks into Cardiff Bay.