• Tim Phillips aboard Muriel gives police officers a statement about the incident.Photo Roger McMillan.
    Tim Phillips aboard Muriel gives police officers a statement about the incident.Photo Roger McMillan.
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Three fishermen from Melbourne are lucky to be alive after their tinnie capsized in strong winds about 2nm off Sandringham beach.

Tim Phillips was sailing his 96-year-old Couta boat Muriel from Sandringham to Queenscliff when he spotted the tinnie. “I thought, ‘it’s low in the water’ – I saw them a long time before they waved,” he said. “I knew they were in trouble.”

Sailing solo, Tim first tried to approach them under sail. He hove to alongside but quickly realised it wasn’t going to be an easy rescue. Only one of the three lifejackets on board inflated and one of the men was huge – about 150kg. Tim was forced to start the motor to hold Muriel steady into the howling winds which had postponed racing on the final day of the ISAF Sailing World Cup at Sail Melbourne.

He managed to get all three into the Couta boat and returned to Sandringham marina, where they were met by an ambulance. Two of the men were OK but one was treated for hypothermia by the ambulance officers. The tinnie sank.

The three men were very lucky that the beautiful old boat could handle such conditions – with two reefs in the main and a Spitfire jib up.

- Roger McMillan

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