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The radar scanner had been bent on the top of its mast.

Coxswain Mac Leod was concerned that, due to the weather conditions, a passage through the Sound of Barra would be extremely dangerous for the yacht, and was even reluctant to take the lifeboat through.

However he thought the yacht skipper, without any local knowledge, might head for the Sound in an attempt to reach safety.

VHF radio contact with the yacht was established as the lifeboat rounded to the north of Fuday.

The initial estimated time of arrival (ETA) given to the yacht was revised when the extent to which the weather conditions would slow the lifeboat was fully realised and the yacht's updated position established.

Both boats suffered knock-downs in the huge seas and the lifeboat's coxswain Donald Mac Leod was awarded the charity's Bronze Medal for his actions.

Here, as promised, is the RNLI's official dramatic account of the rescue: The Vijara, a 12m aluminium racing yacht, was participating in the 'round the UK, Ireland and Shetland yacht race' and was on passage from Castlebay, Barra to Lerwick.

After 24 hours at sea in atrocious weather, (described by Pete Goss, as *worse than the Roaring Forties in the Southern Ocean), the two crew were exhausted and had shortened sail prior to both getting a couple of hours sleep.

They were woken by being flung around the cabin as the yacht was picked up by a huge breaking wave and went stern over bow and then over 100 degrees onto her starboard side leaving the mast under water. Under the chain plates the hull plates had broken their welds where they were attached to the frames and the mast spreaders had pushed into the mast, slackening the rigging, putting the mast at risk of collapse.

Coxswain Mac Leod ordered all five crewmembers to strap into their seats, an order he did not rescind until the lifeboat was back in the lee of Barra some three hours later.

Regular communication with the yacht enabled the lifeboat crew to plot electronically an interception course, based on the yacht's course and speed.

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