The man had no sailing experience and required rescue before being arrested.

A man has been sentenced to 19 months in jail after he stole a car, then stole a yacht, sailed it across the Moray Firth in a force 8 storm, panicked and sent off a flair, was rescued, spent 48 hours on a ship and then was placed under arrest upon returning to port.

Cathal Mathew, 29, was sentenced yesterday in Elgin Sheriff Court in Moray in the north of Scotland after admitting to stealing the car, driving it without insurance and to stealing the yacht.

Mathew, who was banned from driving for life in 2007, reportedly stole an Audi S5 while on a test drive on 14 November 2015.

He test drove the vehicle with its owner before asking to drive the coupe on his own.

The owner agreed and Mathew departed, telephoning a short time later to say the vehicle had lost power. When the owner arrived where Mathew claimed the car had broken down, neither Mathew nor the £17,000 vehicle were anywhere to be found.

The police were called, but Mathew spent the evening driving his partner and friends around in the car, telling them he had bought it.

Mathew then fled to to Portknockie, parking the stolen car in the village harbour at 10:30pm, according to eyewitnesses.

He then disappeared for nearly 24 hours and was next seen by the crew of a standby vessel in Captain oil field 35 miles east of Wick, Caithness, after shooting a flare from a yacht.

The crew shone a search light on the yacht, Tradewinds, and saw Mathew waving. The captain of the standby vessel launched a fast rescue craft to assist Mathew, who told his rescuers he was not injured but wanted to get off the boat.

He ultimately admitted to stealing the yacht and the vessel’s owners were contacted via the Portknockie harbour master.

A passing ship took Mathew to shore 48 hours later on 19 November, where he was arrested.

In court, Mathew was described as a prisoner at Inverness and his defence lawyer said he had acted impulsively out of stress.

Sheriff Chris Dickson told Mathew the charges were serious and sentenced him to 19 months and 20 days in jail.

The abandoned stolen Tradewinds yacht eventually washed up on the island of Auskerry east of Orkney and is reportedly badly damaged and no longer seaworthy.

The owner of the stolen yacht told the BBC that it was “a real disappointment” that he received no compensation in the case, saying, “We worked hard to pay for it. All our savings ended up going into getting it back to sea and he steals it.”

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