Extreme sailor says no to rescue crews
A STUBBORN Newquay sailor twice refused to be rescued by lifeboat crews as he battled fierce waves on Monday, insisting: "I'll fire off a flare if I'm in trouble."
Glenn Crawley, 57, had been negotiating the monster swell around the Cribbar reef in his catamaran – but a sudden drop in wind left him struggling to return to the harbour.
As the light began to fade, and with more than a dozen onlookers expressing concern, harbour master Graham Alecock-Smith requested an RNLI lifeboat launch at around 4pm.
But surf shop worker Glenn declined a tow to safety, instead opting to join surfers in the line-up before beaching his 18-foot boat on sand beneath the Blue Reef Aquarium.
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The father of one was cruelly dubbed 'Captain Calamity' by the national press in 2007 after the RNLI declared they had "lost count" of the number of times they had been called out to assist him.
The daredevil told the Cornish Guardian that tackling tough waves – and even capsizing – is part of his extreme brand of big wave sailing, which people failed to understand.
"The RNLI get a bit peed off with it all but I get a bit peed off too," he said. "They came and asked if I wanted assistance. I said thanks very much but I got myself into that situation and I wanted to get myself out of it.
"I was in no danger and I said I'd send up a flare if I'm in trouble. But they have a duty and I'm aware of that. The problem comes when someone who doesn't understand what I do thinks I'm in trouble and dials 999. The RNLI then have no choice but to come out."
An RNLI spokeswoman said crews were aware of Glenn's unique sailing habits but always responds to emergency calls. A lifeboat launch reportedly costs up to £2,500.
"We have to respond if someone calls it in and thank goodness people do ring 999," she said. "It saves lives. If we sat around waiting for flares then a lot of people would end up in a lot of trouble."
Mr Alecock-Smith, who is also an RNLI crew member, said he too had an obligation to make sure everyone using the harbour was safe.
He and a group of fishermen had watched Glenn repeatedly attempt to manoeuvre his £1,500 catamaran through the harbour entrance.
"I was growing increasingly concerned," he said. "There was no wind to push him at all. How he was staying upright with all those waves breaking I have no idea. After about 15 minutes I'd seen enough and requested the lifeboat launch.
"I've got a position of responsibility at the harbour and if I perceive someone is in imminent danger, or is likely to cause danger to others then I will act. There were a lot of surfers in the line-up at the time."
Glenn surfed since he was 12 but turned to extreme sailing nine years ago after a motorcycle accident made catching big waves too difficult.
In 2010 he capsized his previous catamaran, which was smashed to pieces on rocks near Little Fistral. In 2008 he agreed to retake his sailing test after the RNLI were called out to rescue him four times in as many hours.