RNLI helmsman uses his skills to help struggling competitor during 17-day race

PUBLISHED: 19:00 01 November 2017

Trainee helmsman Nathan Meager on board the Rona II vessel.

Trainee helmsman Nathan Meager on board the Rona II vessel.


A trainee helmsman from Burnham-on-Sea's RNLI crew Nathan Meager put his lifeboat skills to use during the Transatlantic Tall Ships Race.

Crew members on board the Rona II.Crew members on board the Rona II.

Nathan and 22 other crew members were aboard the sail training vessel, Rona II, and were making their way under engine in the Atlantic for the race from Halifax Nova Scotia in Canada to Le Havre in France.

As they were proceeding to the start line, they passed one of their competitors barely making way and discovered the boat did not have enough fuel as it tried in vain to sail in very little wind.

After a quick fuel calculation on board Rona II, a tow was offered to the vessel called Peter Van Danzig.

Nathan was able to use his RNLI towing knowledge to help rig a secure tow and set up the correct day shapes in Rona II’s rigging to indicate that a tow was being conducted.

The Rona II crew celebrating winning their race in Le Havre.The Rona II crew celebrating winning their race in Le Havre.

After many hours, a larger vessel, Gulden Leeuw – which was also participating in the race – took over the tow as it had a greater fuel reserve and was able to make better speed.

Nathan said: “I was told by a previous competitor in the race that we probably wouldn’t see another vessel the whole way across the Atlantic, so to see a couple of boats and to have to put my RNLI helmsman training to use was quite a surprise.”

Nathan and the Rona II crew raced more than 2,600 miles and spent 17 days at sea.

He continued: “It was a great experience that I was one small part in among six other crews.

“All in all, the boat was away for over five months and nearly 150 people benefitted from the adventure of a lifetime, which will have changed lives and developed not only sailing skills, but personal skills too.”

Nathan was lucky enough to helm the boat over the finish line under full spinnaker, screaming along at nearly 13 knots, which he described as ‘an unforgettable memory as we broke out celebratory drinks and sprayed the skipper with champagne.’

Nathan has volunteered for over 17 years with the Rona Sailing Project, an initiative that helps develop the skills of 14 to 25-year-olds by running training voyages.

Lifeboat operations manager Matt Davies added: “We are proud of Nathan and his achievement, and his dedication helps to demonstrate the high calibre of our volunteers.”

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