Bristow’s UK SAR operations win awards for rescue missions


Helicopter operator Bristow’s UK Search and Rescue (SAR) operations team has won a series of prestigious awards. The latest award is the Prince Philip Helicopter Rescue Award for 2023, made in recognition of its mission to save the crew of a yacht in distress off the Lizard rocks on the UK’s south west coast.

Commenting on the award, Graham Hamilton, UK SAR director for the operator said: “It is just fantastic to see how the international SAR community has acknowledged this rescue. The way the team worked – and I include their counterparts on the water and colleagues in the base – really brought to life all the Bristow values.”

The award was presented to Newquay-based captain Debdash ‘Debs’ Bhattacharya, captain Mark Coupland, winch operator Jason ‘Jase’ Bibby and winchman-paramedic Carlton Real. It followed their work in rescuing the crew of a yacht caught in Storm Claudio last October.

The UK Honourable Company of Air Pilots, which presented the award at The Guildhall in London on October 26th, called the rescue: “Another astonishing act of selflessness and professionalism … performed by the crew of Rescue 924, an HM Coastguard helicopter operated by Bristow.”

The SAF helicopter arrived on-scene to find the yacht pitching and rolling behind the Penlee lifeboat, whose crew had managed to pass a tow line to the vessel in distress. The yacht had lost its sails and was taking on water, while drifting to the rocks of the Lizard peninsular.

“Over the next hour we embarked on the most testing SAR job that any of us had faced before,” said Bhattacharya. The helicopter crew strived to mimic the erratic movements of the yacht, as it was driven by giant waves. On the yacht’s deck, winchman-paramedic Real tended to the yachtsmen before finally managing his extraction.

“I doubt that we could have performed this rescue without the incredibly brave actions of the Penlee Lifeboat, the Ivan Ellen,” said Bhattacharya.

This latest award follows previous accolades: the Collins Aerospace 2023 Rescue of the Year, the Edward and Maisie Lewis Award for Outstanding Air-Sea Rescue and the Silver Medal Service Certificate on Vellum from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).


Above: The winch operator’s view during the mission to save the crew of the stricken yacht.

Top: Part of the Bristow team celebrates the Prince Philip Helicopter Rescue Award for 2023.