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Monday, 10 September, 2001, 18:57 GMT 19:57 UK
Capsized canoeist calls Dubai for help
Canoeist capsizes
Who did the lecturer call in a crisis? - his dad in Dubai
When a Cambridge University lecturer's kayak capsized in rough seas off the Isle of Wight he phoned his father in Dubai for help.

As Mark Ashton-Smith clung helpless to his canoe he decided not to dial 999.

Mark Ashton-Smith
Mark Ashton-Smith: Did what he thought best
Instead he first called his sister in Cambridge and then his father 4,000 miles away in the United Arab Emirates.

Both then alerted the Solent coastguards to the drama unfolding less than a mile away from them.

After clinging to his kayak for nearly an hour, the 33-year-old was winched to safety by helicopter.

Solo expedition

Dr Ashton-Smith was on the first day of a planned four day solo expedition to circumnavigate the island.

Rescue of Dr Ashton-Smith
The lecturer was winched to safety
The lecturer, who has a PhD in psychology, spent half an hour trying to reach land after his canoe capsized on Saturday.

He sounded his fog horn but passing vessels did not hear it.

Unable to get back on to the kayak, he reached for his mobile phone in the watertight container in its toe.

He told the BBC: "By the time I got the mobile my hands were getting cold so I had to struggle for a bit to undo these little watertight containers, then I fished it out and held it above the water line while the bigger waves came in."

Lucky escape

Solent Coastguard duty watch manager Peter Brown told BBC News Online that Dr Ashton-Smith was lucky to be alive.

"He was very very lucky that the mobile worked and that someone had the foresight to call the coastguards."

He said that in those windy conditions with the tide ebbing, they could have been searching for him for up to 15 hours.

Fortunately, once they made contact with Dr Ashton-Smith, he was able to guide them to him by his hand-held locator device.

But Mr Brown had some advice for people considering similar trips.

"Always carry a flare and a marine radio," he said.

Alternatively anyone can contact the Coastguard direct on 999.

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