A crewman aboard a yacht saved from sinking in rough seas in the early hours of Saturday said he and his colleagues undoubtedly owed their lives to New Quay lifeboatmen.

Scott Barclay, a member of the four-man crew aboard the yacht on passage from Beaumaris to Milford Haven, said tragedy had been averted.

"Basically, when they got to us we were hanging on and all but ready to go over and under,” he said. “Those guys are heroes.

"They saved our lives and our boat in the early hours of the morning, in terrible weather, the roughest seas - pitch-black and poor visibility.

“Without question, without a second thought, when the call came in they were on their way.”

The station’s relief Mersey class all-weather lifeboat, Bingo Lifeline, was requested to launch by HM Coastguard to aid the 36-foot motor yacht, 24 nautical miles off the resort at 12.50am.

The yacht had lost hydraulic power to the steering and was drifting at a speed of 3.2 knots.

The lifeboat – deputising for the Frank and Lena Clifford of Stourbridge currently undergoing repairs - launched at 1am with seven volunteer crew members on board, in a force six to seven north-westerly.

There were concerns for the well-being of two of the yacht’s crew, who were suffering from severe sea sickness.

After battling heavy seas for an hour and a half, the lifeboat crew located the vessel and put a crew member aboard to assess the situation before fixing a tow.

“Conditions were pretty bad,” said Coxswain Daniel Potter. “We had been steaming through large waves to get to the casualty and, when we arrived on scene, could see the yacht rolling violently.

“We passed over a sea anchor to get them head to wind and then put one of our crew on board, which was fairly challenging.

“We were then able to assess the condition of the casualties and begin the long journey back to New Quay.”

A spokesperson for the Ceredigion Lifeboat Campaign group who are fighting RNLI plans to replace New Quay’s all-weather lifeboat with a smaller Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat next year, said the rescue demonstrated why the retention of the larger vessel was essential.

“The rescue carried out by New Quay lifeboat on Saturday morning was clearly beyond the operating limits of an Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat, not only in terms of the weather conditions, but also the distance from shore and the size and weight of the casualty vessel," he added.

Mr Barclay was in full agreement. “If we’d had to wait longer for a lifeboat from another station they would have been coming to recover bodies and a wreck,” he said.

“This all-weather boat is essential - if it goes you will be putting more pressure and stress on the boats further up the coast.”

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager, described the conditions as ’extremely dangerous’.

“The state of the occupants was of great concern,” he said. “It was imperative that the lifeboat reached them as soon as possible as the disabled yacht was drifting at the mercy of the weather.”