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Catamaran rescue

A Kelowna man was a little sore Friday, but otherwise OK after being rescued from the rough waters of Okanagan Lake in Summerland,Thursday night.

Chris Gayford, 31, was out with two friends in a Tornado catamaran in the early evening when it flipped end over end, sending him and the others into the water.

"I was on the wire standing off the side of the boat in about the middle of the lake, when we hit a wave. The tip of the catamaran went into the water stopping the boat, sending me and a friend, who were attached to the top of the 30 foot mast flying," he said. "We were spinning and rotating around the boat and the whole thing came toppling over."

Gayford was underneath the boat and he and the two others, Tanner Mair, 31, the Kelowna owner of the boat, and Andreas Vold, 26, a professional mountain biker, visiting from Norway, had to swim to the other side to try and right it.

"It took us about 20 minutes, I was on the bottom of the boat, while the other two swam to the top to stop it from toppling," he said. "I'm in the water still, and as soon as it righted itself, the wind caught the sail, and the boat took off without me."

Gayford had a wetsuit and a life jacket on, so he felt OK in that respect, but was worried because he had a long swim ahead of him.

"I was also nervous because the sun was going down, and I thought boats would be looking for me and might possibly run into me," he said.

By that time he had lost sight of the boat, with Mair and Vold on board, so he started swimming to shore for the next hour.

His legs started cramping and he didn't know if the currents were keeping him in the same spot or if he was going to shore.

"I was going toward Summerland, and then two men in a green boat came and got me. I was relieved because I was tired and very appreciative and a little embarrassed by the whole deal."

While Gayford was out in the water, Mair and Vold and people who live in the Crescent Beach neighbourhood in Summerland were doing everything they could to save him.

Alice Steenbergen, who saw the boat come flying into the shore from the window of her home, said she went running over and saw the two guys and asked if they needed help.

They told her, their friend was still swimming in the middle of the lake, and they drove to the South Okanagan Sailing Association building, where Mair and Vold used a power boat to go out on the lake.

Meanwhile, other neighbours searched for someone who was home with a boat, and two men ended up going out on the water with the Summerland RCMP.

They were able to locate Gayford in the lake and bring him in successfully.

"It was an adrenaline rush and I was worried about the guy still out in the lake because the water was really rough out there," said Steenbergen.

Mair said when he and Vold made it to shore at Crescent Beach, their immediate concern was to save Gayford.

"At first there was a lot of adrenaline, but when I got to shore we were panicking because Chris was still in the water," he said."But he had given me a thumbs up when the boat took off."

He too was very grateful for all the help the neighbours provided.

"I am very thankful for the help we got from all these wonderful people, and that my good friend Chris was OK," he said.

Gayford was not taken to hospital. The police took him back to his truck and he used his life jacket to flag down Mair and Vold, who were still out in the emergency boat.

"They were happy I was OK. They were probably more stressed out than me," he said. "I am a surfer and a wake boarder so I am used to the water."

Mair and Vold returned to the beach Friday morning to retrieve the boat.

Summerland RCMP responded to the scene, and Naramata Fire Rescue was called out. But did not need to attend the scene.


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