A major operation is under way to rescue an 82-year-old yachtsman whose stricken vessel started drifting towards a gas platform in the North Sea.
The man raised the alarm at around 8.50pm yesterday evening when his vessel suffered a mechanical failure in extreme weather conditions, with seven metre waves and gale force winds.
He got into difficulty in the middle of the North Sea, around 95 nautical miles from Lerwick in Shetland and 86 nautical miles from Norway.
The mechanical failure left the man unable to steer and his yacht, the 25ft Harrier of Down, began drifting towards a gas platform with 162 people on board. They also put out a distress call but the yacht did not collide with the platform.
The stand-by vessel Vos Prospector, from the Dunbar gas field, contacted Shetland Coastguard after picking up the solo yachtsman’s call for help and a rescue operation was launched.
Vos Prospector tried to attach a tow line to the Harrier of Down but could not because of the weather.
Two helicopters were on stand-by in collaboration with the Norwegian coastguard, but the 82-year-old did not want to be airlifted from his yacht as he did not want to abandon it.
A Norwegian Coastguard vessel from Bergen is travelling to the scene and will tow the yacht back to the city.
The man is English and it is thought he was travelling from Shetland to Bergen when he got into difficulty.
A spokesman for Total said: “Last night a small yacht was reported to be drifting within a half mile of Total’s North Alwyn platform. The coastguard and the North Alywn’s Emergency Response Vessel (ERV) offered support to the yacht.
“At all times the situation was closely monitored and under control by both the coastguard and the ERV. The North Alwyn platform did not go to muster and no plans were made for evacuation.”