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August 7, 2002
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Broadcaster Chris Evans escaped injury but was “deeply shocked” after the skipper of the yacht he was sailing on died in a tragic accident on Wednesday.

The man, who has not been named, was knocked overboard by a swinging sail boom at 9.15pm, leaving the six passengers on board the craft in the Solent, off the south coast of England, with no means of navigating to shore.

One of the passengers telephoned the emergency services and was advised to turn on the yacht’s lights so that the passing Isle of White ferry could find them. However, no-one on board knew how to switch on the lights or how to use the VHF radio, and Solent Coastguard had to send out a rescue craft and helicopter to find them. A police boat and three other craft also joined the search.

Once they found the 31-foot yacht called Nautica, the skipper was pulled out of the water but despite attempts to resuscitate him, he was later pronounced dead. The Coastguard said there were no suspicious circumstances and the death was a tragic accident. It is understood that Chris was with friends and that his wife Billie Piper was not with him.

Solent Coastguard watch manager Dave Williams said the other passengers were fortunate the weather was mild that evening. “It was extremely lucky that this particular yacht was still within mobile cell range of this shore although the accident still had its tragic outcome,” he commented.

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Photo: ©
Chris and five friends were stranded on the boat after the skipper was knocked overboard by a swinging sail boomPhoto: © PA