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Rescued sailor thanks services for saving his life


GRATITUDE Sailor Neil Payter has expressed his thanks to the people of Clare Island and the Achill Lifeboat after his rescue at sea last week.

Anton McNulty

THE skipper of a yacht who was towed to Clare Island by the Achill lifeboat crew last week has praised the hospitality of the locals saying he could not have asked for a better place to be rescued.
Neil Payter has been staying on Clare Island since last Monday morning as he makes running repairs to his ten metre long racing yacht, Caliberia. The yacht suffered electrical failure and damage to his sail while competing in the Ostar and Twostar yacht race from Plymouth in England to Newport in Rhode Island, USA.
The search for the 56 year old, who was sailing solo, took place after race organisers lost contact with him for 48 hours and he was eventually discovered 40 miles off Achill Head.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Mr Payter said that he could not have asked to be brought to a better community and the Clare Islanders have shown him the best in Irish hospitality.
“The islanders here have been like just one big family. I could not have asked for a better place to be brought to and I will be coming back. The help the locals have given me is unbelievable.
“As a foreign yachtsman we are told the west coast of Ireland has no harbours but it’s the polar opposite. I’m looking to get away next weekend which is a shame because I would quite like to stay here,” he said.
Neil was actually leading the race when he suffered electronic failure close to Rockall and damage to his sail. He decided to turn back and limp down along the Irish coast towards Kinsale to carry out repairs.
Unbeknownst to him, his race tracker on board the yacht stopped working and race directors grew worried for his safety when they were unable to contact him due to the electrical failure. He told The Mayo News that he was happy to keep sailing towards Kinsale and was oblivious to the search and rescue mission.
“I was happy to keep sailing. My strategy was to stay off shore, make the repairs that are necessary and then approach the shore while under control,” he said, adding the first he knew of the rescue was when he saw the Irish Coast Guard helicopter flying overhead.
“I was not expecting the rescue. I decided to have a little nap and can you imagine the noise of the helicopter hovering over your boat. I nearly had a heart attack,” he laughed.
“I was not in distress when the lifeboat came out but I wasn’t going to say no to a tow to a safe harbour for repairs. They were 100 percent professional and they were really nice guys. These guys are all volunteers and they came out on Sunday night to bring me in and I can’t thank them enough for that.”
Based in Lanzarote, Neil explained a ‘duff’ battery on the motor starter and the dodgy gauge which stated he was fully charged when he wasn’t resulted in the electrical failure.
All participants in the Ostar and Twostar yacht race are given an ornamental silver half a crown and when Neil receives it he intends to donate it to the Achill lifeboat.
“What I want to do is give the silver crown to the lifeboat guys because I think they have earned it more than I have. The boys from the lifeboat went above and beyond the call of duty and the people of Clare Island have been looking after me and have shown me true Irish hospitality.”