Honey, I've sunk the boat
By Rajeev Syal
A gentle coastal trip ended with a crunch when a City banker left his partner at the helm of his new £250,000 yacht
FOR Paul Compton, the May Day weekend proved the ideal opportunity to give his latest toy an outing. For the emergency services it turned out to be a mayday of an entirely different kind.
Mr Compton, 42, from London, took a 33-year-old woman partner on his £250,000 yacht for a gentle voyage west along the South Coast from Lymington in Hampshire. They spent the Sunday night in Lulworth Cove, Dorset, and bright and early yesterday cast anchor for the return voyage. It did not last long.
As they neared Anvil Point, Swanage, Mr Compton popped below, leaving his friend at the helm of the 47ft (14m) Wellworthy, the eight-berth vessel that he had bought only two weeks earlier. Minutes later he heard a sickening crunch and rushed on deck to see a gaping hole in the glass fibre side of the yacht, which was rapidly taking in water after striking rocks.
The skipper got off a distress call with the words “mayday, mayday, we’ve hit rocks and are taking on water” before the couple abandoned ship and clambered on to the rocks on the Purbeck coast, from where they watched helplessly over the next two hours as his pride and joy slowly sank.
The Condor Vitesse, a cross-Channel catamaran, heard their call and diverted to the area. The catamaran’s rescue boat was launched, but was not needed as the Swanage lifeboat was quickly on the scene. The crew of the Vitesse helped to pinpoint the location of the stricken yacht and guided in the rescue craft.
Mr Compton was able to jump to safety in a lifeboat, but his friend lost her nerve and a coastguard helicopter had to be dispatched to airlift her to safety.
Dave Turnbull, from Swanage lifeboat station, said that the man was “in shock” after the accident. “It seems that the man went below and left the woman at the helm. The next thing he knew was when the yacht hit the rocks.
“He soon realised nothing could be done and after sending out a mayday call they both climbed on to the rocks. We’re not sure exactly how the yacht hit the rocks, but she had a massive hole on her starboard side. Our man on the rocks could actually see into the interior. The yacht then fell over and basically disintegrated. She was made of glass fibre and so broke up into tiny pieces,” he said.
It is understood that Mr Compton and his partner were then examined at a local hospital before taking a taxi back to their car in Lymington. Lifeboat officials said that they believed that Mr Compton then planned to drive back to London, but may have left his car keys on board the yacht.
Mr Compton, a divorcé from Richmond, southwest London, is an analyst at Collins Stewart, the City stockbroking firm. According to one neighbour, he is “incredibly rich” and owns a Porsche with a personalised number plate that includes the number “007”.
Mr Turnbull added: “The couple left together. We are unsure whether or not they were still speaking to each other. It was an unfortunate accident.”
# A warship came to the rescue of a yacht that began sinking in the North Sea yesterday.
The engine room of the 56ft catamaran Brigand was flooded when she lost a rudder and the sea burst into one of the hulls.
HMS Ledbury, a Hunt class minehunter assigned to fishery protection duties, answered a distress call from the skipper of the catamaran which was
15 miles (24km) off the Essex coast. The stricken yacht, which had three people on board, had lost the use of one of her engines and was rapidly taking on water.
The warship dispatched a three-man rescue team which found that a sheared rudder stock had breached the port hull, causing severe flooding of the hull and engine compartment. The rescue team shored up the hull before the arrival of a lifeboat, and a portable pump was used to pump the yacht dry.
The catamaran, which had sailed out of Harwich, Essex, and was heading for Boulogne, managed to make her own way to Ramsgate under the watchful eye of the lifeboat.