Father praises volunteer RNLI crews after dramatic rescue off the East Cork coast
People should support RNLI as they never know when they might need them – Connon
Youghal Man Peter Connon, who was rescued with members of his family on Easter Monday after their sailing crafts capsized. Pictured with him are volunteer lifeboat crew from Youghal Erik Brooks and Liam Keogh who were involved in the rescue. Photograph:Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
A father of three has spoken of his admiration and gratitude for the RNLI after they saved him and four teenagers who were thrown into the sea when their dinghies capsized off the East Cork coast earlier this month.
Peter Connon (52) from Youghal and his son, Harry (14) nephews, James Connon (14) and Michael Doherty (14) and his niece, Laura Connon (13) had set sail from Pilmore Beach near Youghal at 2.30pm on Easter Monday last.
Mr Connon and his young crew were in two GP14 sailing dinghies and were headed for Capel Island off Knockadoon Head when suddenly the weather turned and a strong wind whipped up and they found themselves in trouble.
Mr Connon explained that one of their boats capsized when they encountered a squall south of Capel Island and when the occupants of the second craft tried to come to their aid, it also capsized in the worsening weather.
He said they were unable to right their vessels in the deteriorating conditions but they managed to set off a personal locator beacon which alerted the emergency services and a rescue plan was immediately put into operation.
“Everyone in the group had attended sailing courses and knew what to do in an emergency -–we kept calm and our Life Vests inflated and helped keep us afloat and safe until the RNLI lifeboat crew were able to rescue us.”
All five managed to remain with the upturned boats after they raised the alarm and within minutes, the Irish Coast Guard Marine Rescue Centre in Dublin had dispatched Youghal RNLI Inshore Boat to the scene to pluck them to safety.
Meanwhile the RNLI Ballycotton All Weather Boat, Austin Lidbury also raced to the scene and remained on standby as Youghal RNLI under Helm Eric Brooks and his crew of Michael Brooks, Liam Keogh and Kevin Daly rescued the five.
Mr Connon said: “I can’t describe the feeling of joy when you see those big orange lifeboats come into view. I’m a big man but we were scooped into that lifeboat like we weighed nothing and the RNLI crew were just so professional.
“My family and I are so grateful to Youghal and Ballycotton RNLI and to the paramedics and Coast Guard crews who attended to us that day. What might have happened only hit me much later,” he added.
Mr Connon was speaking in advance of doing the RNLI’s annual Mayday Mile fundraiser, which kicks off next month to raise funds for the 197-year-old charity, which last year was involved in almost 1,000 rescues off the Irish coast.
“I’m doing the Mayday Mile fundraiser to thank the RNLI and hopefully, by sharing my story, other people will know that anyone can get into difficulty and it’s important to have a means of calling for help,” he said.
A RNLI spokeswoman said that despite the restrictions put in place last year to deal with the Covid 19 pandemic, RNLI lifeboat crews all around Ireland were still busy during 2020 bringing a total of 1,145 people to safety.
“Nationally, 53 per cent of our 945 lifeboat launches took place in the months of June, July and August so volunteer lifeboat crews are getting ready for what they expect will be a busy summer with people continuing to holiday at home.”
And Cork, with the second longest coastline in Ireland with 1,094 kms of shoreline, was no exception last year with RNLI crews from the eight stations dotted around the coast being involved in almost 90 launches in 2020.
“We have lifeboat stations in Youghal, Ballycotton, Crosshaven, Kinsale, Courtmacsherry, Union Hall, Baltimore and Castletownbere and last year our volunteer crews from these stations launched 88 times and saved 99 people.”
“The Mayday Mile starts on May 1st and runs for the month and lifesavers are calling on supporters to join the Mayday Mile and cover the distance in any way they chose to raise vital funds to help lifeboat crews continue their work.”
Anyone wish to support the Mayday Mile can do so by signing up at RNLI.org/SupportMayday.