Royal Navy fliers and their training ship helped a British yachtsman when his boat was damaged by storms in the Bay of Biscay

Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters from 825 Naval Air Squadron were scrambled from RFA Argus after receiving an SOS from a yacht which had lost its mast as it was returning to Britain from the Azores.

The fliers didn’t find anything at the spot where Takita reported its location, and began a search of the Atlantic areas where the strong winds and heavy seas might have carried the stricken vessel – or its sole crewman if he’d abandoned the Takita.

During the third sweep of the search the aircrew located the 30ft boat without its mast but still with its master.

“It was absolutely extraordinary that the yacht was sighted considering the sea state, the size of the vessel, its white hull and that it was in the swell troughs for most of the time,” said Observer Lt Cdr Chris Grey.

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The broken mast had also carried away the radio transmitter which made communications difficult. Although it was damaged, Takita was still seaworthy.

The stricken yacht was approached  by the Argus, whose crew passed over jerrycans filled with fuel so that the vessel could reach Brest in France for emergency repairs.

Argus, which doubles as a floating medical centre for the military and aviation training vessel, is being used by 825 Squadron to give rookie pilots, observers and ground crew experience of flying and maintaining the Fleet Air Arm’s newest helicopter at sea.