Rosslare Harbour RNLI crew honoured for Storm Ophelia rescue mission

October 2017: Crew faced 10m swells and Force 12 winds as they rescued stricken yacht

The crew of the Rosslare Harbour RNLI lifeboat is to be honoured by the organisation. Photograph: RNLI

The crew of the Rosslare Harbour RNLI lifeboat is to be honoured by the organisation. Photograph: RNLI


An Irish lifeboat crew is to be honoured by the RNLI for their efforts in saving the lives of three sailors caught up in hurricane conditions after their yacht ran into difficulties off the southeast coast during Storm Ophelia four years ago.

The crew of the Rosslare Harbour RNLI lifeboat, known as the Donald & Barbara Broadhead, will be honoured by the RNLI, with Coxswain Eamonn O’Rourke receiving the thanks of the institution inscribed on vellum, and the rest of the crew each receiving vellum service certificates.

Rosslare Harbour RNLI lifeboat operations manager David Maloney outlined the background to the crew being honoured as he detailed what unfolded on the morning of October 16th, 2017, as Storm Ophelia began to batter Ireland, with record wind speeds for the island hitting 191 km/h.

“At 10am on 16 October 2017 a ‘Mayday’ was received by the Irish Coast Guard from the skipper of Second Love, a 10-metre Dehler yacht, in serious trouble en route from the UK to Malahide. With conditions deteriorating rapidly, the crew were struggling to keep control of the yacht.

“They had planned to berth in Rosslare but decided to head to Arklow in a bid to outrun the weather. Rosslare Harbour RNLI lifeboat was launched, and the rescue lasted four hours in severe weather and sea conditions,” he explained.

Coxswain O’Rourke and his crew of mechanic Michael Nicholas and crew members Art Sheil, Micheal Ferguson, Keith Morris, Padraig Quirke, Stephen Breen and Richard Parish, headed out in some of the worst weather they had ever encountered, with 10m swells and Force 12 winds, he said.

Mr Maloney explained that when the David & Barbara Broadhead reached Second Love, a decision was taken to pass a device known as a drogue, which trails behind a vessel to slow it down in rough conditions, to the casualty yacht and then establish a tow to bring the vessel to safety.

He said the rescue was a particularly challenging one, where great skill, good seamanship and patience were needed, but Coxswain O’Rourke and his crew had exhibited all these qualities in abundance to effect the rescue and bring Second Love and its crew of three to safety.

“While no lifeboat crew does any rescue for reward, this is a great honour for our station, which has a long and proud history going back back as far as 1838. The conditions that day in October 2017 were terrible, but when a Mayday is being broadcast, the lifeboat crew go.

“And we are fortunate to have incredibly dedicated and skilled lifeboat crew in Rosslare where each volunteer would have been ready and willing to go to sea. When the pagers went off for this shout, we had 18 of our lifeboat crew respond.”

Mr Maloney said that in announcing the award, the RNLI recognised Coxswain O’Rourke for his boat handling and exemplary leadership in hurricane force weather conditions, and the lifeboat crew involved for their teamwork, courage and collective efforts in the rescue.

The award is the second recognition for Rosslare Harbour RNLI, following the gallantry award for a rescue off Hook Head which saw nine lives saved and averted an environmental disaster when the 4,000-tonne cargo vessel Lily B was prevented from hitting rocks in October 2020.

On that occasion, Rosslare Harbour RNLI was part of a joint operation with Kilmore Quay RNLI Lifeboat (RNLI Killarney), and the Dunmore East RNLI Lifeboat (RNLI Elizabeth and Ronald), when all three lifeboats helped keep Lily B from drifting on to the rocks at Hook Head after it lost power.

The three RNLI lifeboats, along with the Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 117, were involved in a 12-hour operation to keep the freighter from crashing on to the rocks until the tug, Tramontine, was able to reach the stricken vessel and tow her into Waterford estuary.