Delia Swift and Chris Bell support RNLI Mayday Mile in Cornwall


Experienced sailors Delia Swift and her husband Chris Bell have described how Sennen Cove’s volunteer lifeboat crew saved their lives when their yacht lost its rudder in bad weather as it rounded Land’s End.

They recounted their chilling experience as the RNLI releases its rescue figures for 2021, revealing that lifeboat crews and lifeguards across the South West saved a total of 93 lives during the year, an increase of 20% of the number of lives saved in 2020.

Data shows increased demand for RNLI services. Last year a total of 1,350 people were helped by RNLI lifeboat crews in the South West, an increase of 11% on the previous year.

This increased demand is also reflected in the number of lifeboat launches – 1,387 lifeboat launches took place in 2021 (a 7% increase from 2020), with 2022 set to be another busy year.

With demand for its lifesaving services at a high level, the charity is launching its own ‘Mayday’ appeal, urging the public to take part in the Mayday Mile, raising vital funds to provide essential training and equipment to ensure the safety of their rescuers, while risking their lives to save others.

Whether people choose to walk, jog, hop or jump, the Mayday Mile challenges them to walk at least one mile any way they want between Saturday May 1 and Monday May 31, all raising funds for RNLI lifeguards so they can continue to keep people safe at sea.

Delia and her husband Chris were rescued by Sennen Cove RNLI after their yacht lost its rudder in high winds off Land’s End in June last year.

Experienced sailors, they had set out from their home in Chichester with their dog Ozzy on a three-month voyage around Britain exactly four weeks previously. After reaching Padstow on Cornwall’s north coast, a series of strong northerly winds had kept them stuck in port for 12 days, and with worse weather forecasts they made the difficult decision to cut the trip short. . and go home.

Watching the forecast closely, they spotted a gap in the weather and departed Padstow, heading for Land’s End and the relative shelter of the south coast. Although they had a good wind their yacht was unfortunately not fast enough to round Land’s End before dark so they decided to anchor in St Ives Bay as the best option. more sure.


At that time, the forecast indicated strong gusts of wind the next day but they had put in place the necessary precautions. After a long night’s watch at anchor, the next day a constant Force 8 gale and heavy seas caused the yacht to be dragged to shore. The couple were forced to weigh anchor and set sail, away from the coast, in a northwesterly direction and kept in hourly contact with the Coast Guard.

At midday, with no sign of the wind dropping and after informing the coastguard, the couple felt they had no choice but to race with wind and tide for Land’s End. In very heavy weather, they made good progress.

Five hours later, the wind had eased slightly, but was still gusty and the seas remained rough. They were cold and wet, but continued to tap into their experience. However, as the tide turned, it became very difficult to control the boat with the heavy swell and tidal turbulence. The forces exerted proved to be too great for the yacht and the rudder was lost. With no way to steer the boat, they were now at the mercy of the sea.

Delia said: “I can honestly say the volunteers at Sennen Cove RNLI saved our lives, we wouldn’t be here without their help.

“We are very experienced sailors over 50 years old and have sailed across the North Sea and the English Channel the long way. We always respect the sea and don’t take any risks, but this proves how caught you can be, even being careful.

“I can’t express how scary and reassuring it was to hear they were on their way and to see the beautiful orange lifeboat appear on the horizon and to know that help was near.

“The team was great. They were lovely, professional and compassionate, all while focused on what they had to do to save lives and keep everyone safe. If they hadn’t come, the outcome could have be so different that day.”

Delia and Chris relieved, three days after rescue

Volunteer RNLI crew from Sennen Cove launched their City of London III all-weather lifeboat in the pouring rain and located Delia and Chris on their yacht four and a half miles northwest of Sennen Cove. They quickly established a tow and made steady progress through the strong tidal currents to the safety of Newlyn Harbour.

Dickon Berriman, Area Rescue Manager at RNLI, said: “Delia and Chris’ experience illustrates how quickly situations can escalate for even the most experienced sailors. Incidents involving sailboats increased by 27% in 2021 compared to the previous year.

“The RNLI has been saving lives at sea for almost 200 years. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people in the UK and Ireland needing our help over the past year, and we are so proud that our brave rescuers were there to save them.

“This summer, thousands of people will put themselves in harm’s way by the water enjoying a day out with family and friends. Despite what you might think, it’s so easy to put yourself in harm’s way. It can happen to anyone. That’s why we’re calling on our supporters to sign up for their very own Mayday Mile, to help give our lifeguards everything they need to continue keeping people safe this summer – and beyond.”

All money raised through the Mayday Mile will give RNLI lifeguards the training, equipment and kit they need to save others and get home safe. Sign up and find out more at


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