Facts of a day when yacht trip ended in tragedy

From: Roger Smith, Captain, Humber Yawl Club.

My attention has been drawn to the article “Crew always on call to save lives from the grip of the Humber’s hidden perils” (Yorkshire Post, April 11) regarding the Humber Rescue, part of which is factually incorrect and has caused considerable distress to some of our members and, no doubt, to the families of late members.

The facts are that on that fateful day six very experienced sailors set off in three Flying Fifteens (two to a yacht), which are not 15ft dinghies but are capable 20ft off-shore keel boats designed by the famous Uffa Fox, on the two-hour passage from Hull Marina to Brough Haven. The forecast when the yachts left the marina was F3 to 4; conditions well within the capability of a Flying Fifteen (I know as I am a former FFer).

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The sailors, who were all wearing lifejackets, had viewed the conditions from the quayside before leaving. All sports carry some risk and sailing is no exception. During the passage when close to the Humber Bridge (and to Humber Rescue’s base) in Hessle Whelps, which is notorious in strong wind conditions, two of the yachts were caught by a couple of very heavy squalls. One of the yachts ran aground due to the failure of a bailer and Humber Rescue took the crewman off but left the skipper aboard.

On the other yacht, which was swamped, it is believed that the skipper, Mike Gilbody, had a heart attack and fell overboard.

It is also believed that his crewman, Eric Ridsdale, courageously took to the water in order to try to save Mike.

Whatever, sadly, both men lost their lives. Their bodies were later recovered by an RAF helicopter. The third yacht, which was ahead, continued to Brough Haven, unaware that anything had happened, and on arrival the crew mentioned the squalls but described the passage as a good, brisk sail.

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The Humber Yawl Club supports the Humber Rescue and will continue to do so, as Humber Rescue supports the Humber Yawl Club and all sailors on the estuary.

The Yorkshire Post wishes to apologise for any offence the article may have caused.