Crew ties skipper to the mast

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They say he was acting irrationally and had threatened to sink his 40-footer

A Welsh couple who feared for their safety during a sailing vacation staged a mutiny by tying the yacht’s skipper to the mast and setting off a distress signal about 100 miles northwest of Spain.

Ivan Holroyd, 34, and his girlfriend Rachel Rosen, 32, were aboard the 40- footer Argo with their friend Spike Sellers of Scotland. They were sailing Sellers’ new boat from Cyprus to the United Kingdom, according to reports. Holroyd and Rosen, both inexperienced sailors, told authorities that Sellers acted irrationally and refused to put into port when they encountered a strong storm, despite their pleas to do so. The couple says Sellers even threatened to scuttle the boat.

Sellers reportedly told authorities it was only a light storm and that the vessel was capable of continuing to Britain as planned.

There was a struggle after Holroyd activated Argo’s EPIRB Aug. 6 in the Bay of Biscay. Holroyd, a mountaineering instructor, and Rosen overpowered Sellers and tied his wrists behind his back.

Two helicopters and a salvage vessel responded to the distress call. A helicopter crew airlifted the couple, but it reportedly took rescuers more than an hour to coax Sellers off the yacht.

Sellers, also a mountaineer, was taken to a hospital and treated for dehydration. Spanish authorities who investigated the incident cleared Holroyd and Rosen of any wrongdoing. Sellers also was released without charge, but he may have to foot the bill for the rescue operation, which is about $3,500 (U.S.), according to reports.

Authorities say Sellers, who had been hit by a car in Portugal a week earlier, suffered from insufficient sleep and nourishment, which might have accounted for his unusual behavior.

“There was already a lot of tension because, as the only experienced sailor on board, Spike had to look out for the other two and had gone several days without eating or sleeping properly,” according to a police statement. “He wasn’t in the best of shapes, and with the row over whether to head for port or carry on escalating, he lost it.”

At some point, according to police, the engine cut out, although it is unclear if Sellers disabled it or it malfunctioned.

“What is clear is that you have an experienced captain who is not in the best state of mind, and two people with limited sea experience on a boat which is drifting aimlessly in rough seas,” according to the police statement.

Holroyd and Sellers were friends for nearly a decade and had met because of their mutual affection for mountain climbing, according to the Telegraph, a British newspaper. Sellers, a father of three, runs his own company, Go Mountaineering.

“This news comes completely out of the blue,” said Sellers’ wife, Susan O’Keefe, 30, in a statement to the Telegraph. “Spike did get hit by a car before he left Portugal … but we have no idea as to what may have been the cause of this. Neither do we really understand fully what has happened. This is completely out of character for Spike.”