WHEN a freak wave capsized a boat on Friday, Whitby’s two rowing clubs put aside their competitive rivalries to help save the stricken crew.
At around 7pm the Friendship Rowing Club’s boat Eagle overturned, spilling its crew into the North Sea near the entrance to Whitby Harbour.
Coxswain was 12-year-old Amy Clarkson and rowing club captain John Eglon said that despite the four-strong male crew also being thrown into the water, their main concern was for the safety of the teenager.
He added: “She was OK but it was the initial shock, the water is freezing.”
Three other rowing vessels, one from Friendship and two from the Fisherlads Rowing Club returned to the upturned boat to aid its crew.
Mr Eglon added: “The Fisherlads rallied round and helped us out with the boats.
“Even though there is a rivalry, if anything like that happens we do help each other out.”
Fisherlands member Richard Dowson volunteers at the RNLI and was able to raise the alarm, leading to the launch of both of Whitby’s lifeboats at 7.15pm.
Lifeboat coxswain Mike Russell said: “It will have frightened them, the water is very cold. After four or five minutes you start to lose co-ordination.”
Fisherlads club member Kirsty Kemsley Tweeted about the rescue, saying that the lifeboat crew used their helmets to empty water from the boat in an attempt to refloat it. She added: “It certainly showed how both clubs can pull together to help.”
Boats such as those used by the two rowing clubs have neutral buoyancy and therefore will not sink, so the crew were able to cling on until rescue arrived.
It also means that incidents of vessels overturning are extremely rare and Mr Eglon said: “It was a freak thing, we haven’t had a boat turn over for a long, long time.”
The rowing crews had been practising the senior course, heading from off Sandsend back into Whitby, on what appeared to be a glorious spring evening.
However, by the time they reached Upgang Ravine a strong breeze had begun to blow and the boat took a few large waves, which began to fill the boat and meant they were forced to stop rowing.
Mr Eglon added: “They were trying to get the attention of the Esk Belle but they just thought they were waving at them.
“The wind was blowing them back towards the piers and then a roller came and upended them, it turned the boat upside down.”
The four male members of the crew were rescued unharmed and although Miss Clarkson received treatment at Whitby’s lifeboat station due to the effects of the cold, she also returned home safely.