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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 September 2006, 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK
Racing yachts in harbour rescue
One of the craft
Coastguards say around 50 people were assisted
A major rescue operation has taken place off the north Wales coast after yachts taking part in a race were caught out by the wind and rough seas.

Seventeen yachts, with combined crews of more than 50, were helped by the RNLI and other rescuers.

The laser yachts were racing from Abersoch and got into difficulties entering Pwllheli harbour.

The emergency began at 1042 BST on Saturday when three 16ft yachts were spotted in trouble by the harbour wall.

Coastguards said the 16ft vessels were in difficulties in a heavy three metre swell and winds of 35 knots.

The Pwllheli RNLI inshore lifeboat was launched and with a marina launch towed them away from the wall.

A lifeboat and dinghy during the rescue operation
Yachts were helped to reach safer waters

Gwynedd Council's rescue boat and another inflatable then helped others among the 17 yachts in trouble to reach safer waters.

Within an hour, all the dinghies outside the harbour wall had been brought to safety and the lifeboat headed to Abersoch on the Llyn peninsula to escort any stragglers.

Fast moving

In an unconnected incident, an 18-20ft dinghy - with no-one on board - had capsized in the rough conditions off Warren Point and was washed up.

Holyhead coastguard watch manager, Carl Hiltunen, said more than more than 50 people had been helped in the rescue.

"We have worked well with the RNLI and other rescue boats today in ensuring all those who were in difficulty or likely to be caught out have been brought to safety.

"The RNLI have estimated they have helped over 50 people today and our thanks to them and to others who responded so quickly to this fast moving incident."

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