Rescued transatlantic duo are 'catastrophe waiting to happen'

Steve Shapiro and Bob Weise
Image caption Steve Shapiro and Bob Weise are both 71 are believed to be heading for Maine in the US

Two yachtsmen who have been rescued nine times in seven months have been described as a "catastrophe waiting to happen" and urged to "leave UK waters".

In the latest mishap, US citizens Bob Weise and Steve Shapiro, both 71, had to seek help in Hayle Harbour, Cornwall, when their sailing boat tipped over, causing a fire on board.

Veteran sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is among those criticising the pair.

The duo previously told BBC News they were experienced enough for the trip.

'No longer a joke'

The boat, named Nora, left Norway in July and is aiming for the US state of Maine.

Sir Robin said: "This is no longer a joke.

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Media captionSir Robin Knox-Johnston said the pair should "get the hell out of our waters"

"It costs between £6,000 and £8,000 every time a lifeboat is launched. These guys are costing the RNLI a fortune.

"They need to frankly pack it in or, I hate to say it, get the hell out of our waters."

James Instance, from Falmouth Coastguard, said he was not aware of anyone being rescued so many times in a short space of time.

Image copyright Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service
Image caption Fire crews extinguished a "small fire" on the 18-tonne yacht

Duo rescued nine times in seven months

  • Two rescues by Norwegian and Danish teams, once when the propeller shaft was damaged and the second time when the battery failed
  • Two rescues in Scotland after running aground and having more propeller problems
  • They were assisted in Northern Ireland when the vessel ran aground
  • They called a lifeboat when the boat ran aground in the Republic of Ireland
  • Two rescues in Cornwall, after a mechanical problem and when one of the men got into difficulty rowing to the yacht
  • The ninth callout was made when the boat tipped over causing a fire on board

Peter Haddock, Hayle harbourmaster, said he was worried about the sailors' safety and that of emergency services.

Mr Haddock said he raised the alarm on Tuesday after seeing smoke coming from the vessel's forward hatch and described the pair as a "catastrophe waiting to happen".

Fire crews extinguished a "small fire" on the 18-tonne yacht, which Mr Shapiro said was caused by a candle, and that "otherwise there was no real damage".

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Media captionDuring a TV interview a ladder attached to the boat was crushed by the rising tide, causing the sailor Steve Shapiro to cut the interview short

Mr Shapiro, a screenwriter and author from California, said he had been sailing since he was nine and "people had a right to be angry".

"But it's not justifiable, we have the right to the services as much as anybody else.

"The volunteer organisations volunteered to come out, it was their decision."

Mr Shapiro is accompanied by Mr Weise, who is an ex-US Army helicopter pilot and Vietnam veteran.

The RNLI and Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) refused to comment on how much the rescues would have cost.

A spokeswoman for the MCA said: "Search resources are always used in incidents where people report seeing someone in trouble.

"We would always urge people to call 999 and ask for the coastguard if they're in danger or think someone else might be in distress.

"We never put a price on human life. If we get a 999 call we respond and treat it as an emergency."

Image caption The boat, named Nora, left Norway in July and is aiming for the north-east coast of the USA

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