The Islay RNLI lifeboat crew battled for 18 hours in a severe gale to save the life of the yachtsman. The coxswain and his crew have now been recognised for their bravery.

The coxswain of Islay lifeboat in the Hebrides, Scotland and his volunteer crew have been recognised for their part in saving a sailor’s life during a severe gale.

David MacLellan, 45, is to be awarded the RNLI Bronze Medal for Gallantry – one of the charity’s highest accolades – for his display of great skill and seamanship in an extremely arduous service.

His four crew members will also be recognised for their part in the rescue, an operation which lasted 18 hours.

Mechanic David McArthur, 41, navigator Thomas Coope, 30 and crew Duncan MacGillivray, 31, and Peter Thomson, 37, will receive framed letters of thanks from the RNLI chairman.

The RNLI crew responded on 16 February 2016 after a yacht struck rocks at Skerryvore Reef,  off the west coast of Scotland, and then began drifting.

The accident resulted in a damaged hull.

The weather included winds of nearly 60 knots, driving sleet and treacherous sea conditions of 4-6 metres.

The Islay lifeboat crew tried several times to help the Russian yachtsman, Evgeny Dorofeev, to tie a tow rope to the boat, but attempts floundered.

This was as a result of the weather conditions and the yachtsman’s difficulty in understanding what was required.

He spoke no English, and struggled despite a Russian language translator assisting Stornoway Coastguard with communications.

Eventually, a tow was established, although it came adrift. However, it was enough to take the 15-metre yacht into open water.

The pipe-laying vessel, Deep Energy had also responded to the emergency, as had the coastguard helicopter R100.

The 35-year-old yachtsman managed to leave the drifting yacht and climb aboard Deep Energy.

He was then airlifted to safety.

As a result of the dangerous conditions, the yacht was left to drift, and it subsequently sank.

Islay Coxswain David MacLellan

Islay coxswain David MacLellan


Captain Martin Porter, of Deep Energy, will also receive a framed letter of thanks from the RNLI chairman for a “remarkable job” in positioning his 195-metre long vessel alongside the yacht.

The RNLI has also decided to give official thanks to the owners of Deep Energy with a letter from the RNLI chief executive.

Deep Energy’s crew member, Gavin Hyne is also to receive a letter of thanks from the RNLI’s operations director.

Hyne, who is a volunteer mechanic at RNLI Buckie, is praised for using his skill and training as an RNLI volunteer to assist with the transfer of the yachtsman from the ship’s deck to the helicopter.

Letters of thanks will be also be sent to the pilot and crew of rescue helicopter R100.

Commenting on the rescue, coxswain David MacLellan said: “Everything was being thrown at us that night and day. The crew were fighting fatigue, the conditions and the fact that the yachtsman did not seem to understand what to do. The crew were absolutely fit and dealt with such a demanding job on the deck.”

He continued: “You don’t think of medals when you are bouncing up and down in the waves but it is good to have recognition for the station. We are not the busiest station but when something really nasty comes along then the lifeboat is there to make a difference.”

The RNLI operations director, George Rawlinson, added: “His (MacLellan) determination, leadership and judgement ensured his crew remained safe while giving the best possible chance of survival for the sole occupant of the yacht.”

Captain Martin Porter praised the Islay crew.

“The Islay lifeboat had been trying to assist the yacht for much of the night; a nigh on impossible task in the prevailing conditions,” he said.

“The information which they provided was extremely useful in locating and subsequently manoeuvring to the yacht and to have both RNLI lifeboats from Islay and Barra standing by whilst we did first the evacuation from the yacht and subsequently the hi-line to the helicopter gave a comfort factor to the operation knowing that help was available if things started to go wrong,” continued Captain Porter.

He said it was a “pleasure to lend assistance”.

“We saw just a small example of how the lifeboat crews battle for our benefit and wish them all “Godspeed and safe return” when they go out on a shout again in the future,” stated Captain Porter.

The Russian yachtsman, Evgeny Dorofeev, 35, was subsequently arrested over allegations that he stole the yacht.

The Norwegian authorities requested the extradition of Dorofeev.

They claimed that he made an agreement with the company that owns the sunken yacht to test sail it on the condition that he did not leave Norwegian waters.

The yacht is estimated to be worth £200,000.

Dorofeev has refused extradition and disputes the Norwegian claims.