LAST_UPDATEThu, 01 Aug 2013 4pm

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Minister urged by sailors to re-consider coastguard cuts

Ginny Ware of reported that an experienced Brixham sailor who rescued a stricken yacht off Berry Head fears this would not have been possible if Brixham Coastguard Station didn't exist.

Former Metropolitan police chief David Bubbear said the local knowledge of coastguard rescue co-ordinators saved the yacht from being dashed against the rocks. Mr Bubbear, 63, of Ranscombe Road, said the visiting mariner didn't know his precise location, only that he was off the Brixham headland near a rock known locally as Cod Rock. He explained: "The local coastguard called up on the radio to see if there were any vessels in the vicinity that could assist.

"My son and I were about a mile away in my motor cruiser and we managed to reach the yacht in 10 minutes and tow it back into Brixham. Potentially that was a very dangerous situation. "The yacht had gone between two big rocks off Berry Head and hit a little one that sits between them and cannot always be seen. "It had taken his propeller off. "There was a lee shore wind blowing the man and his wife towards the cliffs and if we had been 20 minutes later we would have been pulling him off the rocks at the bottom. "That whole incident was co-ordinated very sensibly and calmly by the local coastguard station because they knew where he was almost instantly. "They knew us and they knew it was all under control."

Mr Bubbear, who has 20 years' experience of leisure sailing, has written to transport minister, Mike Penning, urging him to reconsider closing Brixham Coastguard Station. The proposals to downgrade the national service would see a reduction of the UK's coastguard stations from the current 18 to just eight, with only three staying open for 24 hours a day. The service could lose 250 jobs as part of efforts to save £7.5 million a year.

Mr Bubbear believes only having three stations covering the UK at night is 'remarkably sparse', adding: "Emergencies at night are often fraught with added disorientation and panic. "Local stations with local knowledge, often with their calming voices, reduce stress levels and often lead to successful rescues/assistance."

He added: "The sums involved seem pretty small when compared with other government services and it seems to me that other departments could find enough savings to cover the cost of saving our station."

Mr Bubbear spent 31 years in the police force, and at one time was the acting superintendent running a protection unit where he was in charge of 400 staff and a sizeable budget. He said: "My managerial experience indicates that it is never sensible to cut from the bottom up. Front-line service providers keep the whole organisation running. "Perhaps this is part of the agenda — to dismantle the service completely and give responsibility for safety to individual skippers and ship owners. "To close Brixham station fails to recognise the strategic location of it in dealing with emergencies. "Local volunteer rescue teams and coastwatch teams are important resources but they are amateur and not available 24 hours."

In his letter to the minister, Mr Bubbear said: "As a sailor I urge you to re-consider. "If you must cut, start from the top."