Tall Ship Mayday for Newhaven Lifeboat


Tall Ship Mayday for Newhaven Lifeboat

RNLI Newhaven’s Severn class lifeboat 'David and Elizabeth Acland' and her volunteer crew were tasked by HM Coastguard at 4.57am on Tuesday 18 May for immediate launch. The Mayday call, by tall ship, 'Pelican of London', reported a medical emergency.

The casualty, a twenty-nine-year-old crew member, aboard the 45 metre square rigger, was receiving medical attention for a compromised airway from a medic on board.

The Lifeboat launched, proceeding towards the last reported position of the vessel, approximately 15NM south west of Newhaven Harbour. Rescue helicopter 175 was also scrambled from Lee-on-the-Solent.

HM Coastguard requested the tall ship to steer a new course, heading towards Newhaven, closing the distance, to shorten the interception.

The tall ship Pelican of London had set sail from Folkestone the previous day, Monday 17 May, beginning a 13-week voyage to circumnavigate the UK with Darwin200 2021.

Adrian Ragbourne, Seas Your Future CEO, said ‘The Pelican was heading to Poole avoiding the worst of the storms as she set off with some new trainee crew who had joined in Folkestone. One of the new crew was taken ill in the early hours, and his condition deteriorated such that at just before 5am it was assessed that his life was in danger and the decision was made to medivac immediately.’

The Lifeboat arrived on scene. Weather conditions of Force 3 to 4 west by south-west, with good visibility and moderate sea state of two metre swell.

The rescue helicopter was in the process of lowering the high line onto the port quarter of the Pelican of London prior to sending down the winchman. The lifeboat stemmed the vessel’s starboard quarter approximately fifty metres off, until the helicopter was clear.

The lifeboat prepared to transfer two crew from the lifeboat onto the Pelican of London to assist the winchman in casualty care, first attempting an approach towards the starboard quarter of the vessel.

Lewis Arnold, RNLI Newhaven Coxswain, said ‘It became evident the vessel’s outriggers on the side of the hull would cause considerable damage to the lifeboat. We adjusted our approach angle ahead towards the beam of the vessel, allowing little more than a metre of clearance to the stern of the lifeboat from the outrigger.’


Two crew from the lifeboat were successfully transferred across to assist with casualty care. The lifeboat stood off, awaiting a situation report. The decision was made to winch the casualty off by helicopter.


The rescue helicopter made an approach to the port quarter and executed another hi-line transfer to get the winchman and casualty up to the helicopter. The two lifeboat crew on board Pelican of London assisted the hi-line extraction of the casualty.


The rescue helicopter departed the scene at 6.25am, taking the casualty directly to Brighton General Hospital (BGH) for onward care.


Once helicopter operations were complete, RNLI Coxswain, Lewis Arnold, requested the Pelican of London to alter their course down sea, for safe-transfer of his crew back onto the lifeboat. The transfer was successfully made. The lifeboat departed the scene at 6.35am, returning to Newhaven, with pagers back on service at 7.43am.


The Pelican of London resumed passage to Poole, where they harboured, as planned, in the evening of Tuesday 18 May. Before setting sail again on Wednesday 19 May, to continue their onward journey, HM Coastguard took the opportunity to schedule helicopter exercise training with the Pelican of London, undertaking further helicopter hi-line transfers to the tall ship vessel.


Adrian Ragbourne, Seas Your Future CEO, has been able to confirm the positive rescue outcome of the casualty. He said, ‘This was a textbook rescue by the Newhaven Lifeboat crew and the rescue helicopter team. Everyone’s training kicked in and the prompt and professional action by all concerned saved a life today – after treatment at BGH the crew member was discharged and returned home to recover.’


Adrian Ragbourne continued, ‘We have a professional crew trained to a high standard and had on board a very experienced expedition medic to provide medical support and direction. We can now continue on our voyage, providing opportunities to around 60 young people to experience the fun and challenges of sailing a tall ship, make new friends, experience great teamwork, and take part in some very important scientific analysis of the waters around our beautiful British coastline.’


Lewis Arnold, RNLI Newhaven Coxswain, said ‘Speed and precision is of the essence when we’re responding to a tasking of this nature. We are very pleased to have assisted in a positive outcome for this sailor. This inspiring charity are providing life-changing opportunities for young people. We wish them a safe onward passage.’





KEY FACTS about the RNLI


  • Stemming a vessel - Maintaining position over the ground when underway in a river or tidal stream. In this scenario, the Lifeboat was stemming the Pelican of London, matching their speed, without making contact with the boat.
  • Established in 1803, Newhaven Lifeboat Station covers from Beachy Head to Brighton. It’s a modern afloat station and operates an all-weather Severn class lifeboat. The crews have been awarded 19 medals for gallantry.
  • The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.


RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone Roz Ashton, RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on 07900 887423 or Rosalind_Ashton@rnli.org.uk or Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer on 07785 296252 Paul_Dunt@rnli.org.uk or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.


RNLI Newhaven social media

Twitter: @NewhavenRNLI

Instagram: newhavenlifeboat

Facebook: @newhaven.lifeboat


RNLI online

For more information, please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the RNLI News Centre.



KEY FACTS about Seas Your Future (SYF)

SYF is a UK charity which owns and operates the tall ship Pelican of London primarily as a sail training vessel for young people, in the northern hemisphere during the spring and summer months around the UK and Europe, and during the autumn and winter months on a six-month transatlantic educational voyage. We meet our core objectives through:


  • Sail Training programmes enabling young people to discover their abilities, values, passions and responsibilities in situations that offer adventure, challenge and the unexpected.
  • Unique Maritime Careers opportunities to learn about life on-board, safety at sea, seamanship, navigation, engineering, teamwork and much more.
  • Voyages for studying Ocean Science, changes to the marine environment and climate, to young people who care passionately about safeguarding the planet.
  • Ensuring that voyages are open to all young people by seeking to subsidise costs for those that cannot pay.
  • Expanding sail training capacity and specialist voyages over the next five years, to meet increasing demand.


The ship has berth capacity for up to 35 trainees and 12 crew and volunteers and has been undertaking sail training voyages since 2007. We aim to sail for 48 weeks every year and our sailing programme is normally agreed 12-24 months in advance. We work in strategic partnership with charities and community organisations, education providers, vocational trainers, port authorities and local councils, to offer a unique and life-changing experience to all who sail with us. Despite the global pandemic, since July 2020 we have successfully delivered 34 weeks of covid-safe sail training voyages.


SYF Online



The full sailing itinerary can be read here: https://www.seasyourfuture.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Darwin200-2021-UK-Voyage22.pdf


A series of short videos from last year’s voyage can be seen on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLaZWAxQE-o8b3h_7uAZmY5TskOBxc4fPf


SYF Contact

Simon Thorrington - simon@seasyourfuture.org

Seas Your Future is the operating name of Adventure Under Sail,
Charity 1124276, VAT 174919961.

For more information contact:

T: +44 (0) 1305 839835