Ilfracombe’s lifeboat was called out to a four-and-a-half hour rescue in heavy seas to rescue a stricken sailor with a head injury.

The all-weather lifeboat The Barry and Peggy High Foundation launched at 5pm on Thursday, August 22 to a small yacht some nine miles offshore.

They had been called by the coastguard after the man was struck on the head by the boom of his yacht.

He and his female crew member had been on the their maiden voyage from wales in the small yacht when disaster struck.

The Ilfracombe lifeboat reported large three to four metre swell and strong winds gusting up to 33 knots as they made their way to the vessel, arriving some 40 minutes after launch.

The man had a head wound but also some pre-existing medical conditions which were cause for concern, while his companion was suffering from extreme sea-sickness and both were very distressed.

The St Athan coastguard helicopter was on scene when the lifeboat arrived, however they were unable to place a winchman aboard due to the poor conditions. Once the lifeboat arrived the helicopter left the scene to refuel.

Two RNLI crew were put aboard the yacht and the man was assisted on to the lifeboat to be assessed by the medically trained crew.

The woman was transferred after, which took several attempts due to the poor medical condition of the woman and the rough seas.

The coastguard helicopter returned and a winchman was put aboard the lifeboat in the rough weather, before both casualties were winched to the helicopter.

The helicopter left the scene at 7pm and took the casualties back to shore where they were met by the Penarth Coastguard Rescue team and the Welsh Ambulance Service and taken to University Hospital of Wales.

The yacht was towed back into Ilfracombe, arriving back at the station at 9.

RNLI volunteer coxswain Andrew Bengey said: "The sailors today were hoping to enjoy a sail on a nice sunny day, however the conditions offshore were much worse than forecast.

"It was good to see that the sailors were properly equipped and wearing lifejackets, this is something that the RNLI would urge all sailors to do.

"The sea conditions today were very difficult; however the crew spend many hours practicing the manoeuvres we had to use today to get the people aboard the lifeboat safely.

"Today was also a good example of a multi-agency rescue with the coastguard helicopter. We train with the coastguard in joint exercises so that we are prepared for these types of rescues and conditions."