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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Lucky escape for 'Captain Calamity'
Stuart Hill and yacht
Mr Hill set sail in his yacht Maximum Exposure
Coastguards have said that an accident-prone yachtsman rescued off the Shetland Islands was "extremely lucky" to survive his ordeal.

Stuart Hill, who earned the nickname Captain Calamity after suffering a series of mishaps, spent an hour clinging to the hull of his capsized boat before being rescued by coastguards.

Mr Hill, 58, from Manningtree, Essex, was on the latest leg of an attempt to circumnavigate the British isles when his 15ft converted rowing boat "Maximum Exposure" capsized in 20ft-high seas, 50 miles west of Shetland.

After spending the night in hospital suffering from hypothermia he said he was undeterred by his latest setback.

Lone yachtsman Stuart Hill
Stuart Hill: Hypothermia
Mr Hill had managed to alert rescuers with a satellite phone and then clung to the hull of his boat.

Coastguard helicopter winchman Kieran Murray said Mr Hill was "extremely lucky".

"He had the sense to fire a flare which certainly made the rescue much quicker for him. He had been in the water for at least an hour.

"I think for a 58-year-old man he was quite brave. He is an adventurer and a pioneer and he had trust in his vessel. Unfortunately he did not wear his survival suit which was one of his mistakes."

Mr Hill was taken to Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick, where he was kept overnight before doctors gave him the all-clear.

Lost everything

He insisted he was properly equipped for the journey and did not rule out making another attempt next summer.

Speaking from the Fishermen's Mission in Lerwick, he said he had lost everything.

He said: "The boat is still upside down in the Atlantic and the chances of retrieving it to continue the journey are virtually nil.

"I find myself in the interesting position that everything I had in the world was on that boat and I now have just the clothes I'm standing in.


The boat is still upside down in the Atlantic and the chances of retrieving it to continue the journey are virtually nil.

Stuart Hill
"I had a wife before I set off but I'm not sure I will even have that to go home to now."

"The boat was designed for extreme conditions and it's stood up really well," Mr Hill said.

He added that he thought he had done well to get as far as the Shetlands.

He said: "Having sailed from Southwold in Suffolk to the northernmost point of Great Britain in one go is an achievement that not many yachtsmen have done.

"And when you consider I have done it in a 15ft boat, I think Captain Calamity did rather well."

Mr Hill's aquatic ambitions have plunged him into hot water in the past.

Mr Hill was dubbed Captain Calamity soon after starting his anti-clockwise voyage round Britain in a converted rowing boat with windsurf sail.

Winchman Kieran Murray
Winchman Kieran Murray: "Extremely lucky"
He encountered difficulties off Yarmouth and insisted on carrying on against the advice of coastguards and rescuers.

Then his radio packed in and he was unable to stay in touch with coastguards.

Undeterred, he said he felt his sea adventure was "something worth doing".

At the time his wife of 30 years, Violet, said she was not concerned arguing that he always landed on his feet.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Captain Calamity Stuart Hill
talks to Radio 4's John Humphrys
Keith Oliver, Shetland Coastguard
"A little more fore-thought ... would have paid dividends"
John Johnston reports
"His solo adventure ended when his boat capsized."
See also:

09 Aug 01 | Scotland
'Captain Calamity' loses touch
07 Jul 01 | Scotland
Luckless sailor rescued three times
13 Apr 01 | Europe
Briton nears boat marathon's end
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