A sailor was rescued by Cunard flagship Queen Mary 2 after his yacht was severely damaged in an extreme north Atlantic storm.

Former Marine Mervyn Wheatley, 73, was forced to sink his own boat as he was rescued from the storm.

The lone yachtsman was taking part in a transatlantic race when his vessel was battered by 30ft waves and winds reaching 80 mph in the early hours of Friday.

The UK Coastguard and counterparts in Halifax, Canada, launched a long-range rescue mission involving an RAF C-130 Hercules after detecting a distress beacon at around 4am on Friday.

His yacht was one of several badly damaged while taking part in a race for solo or two-person crews from Plymouth to Newport, Rhode Island, in the US.

Wheatley, from Newton Ferrers near Plymouth, lost all power and spent several hours pumping out water by hand.

“I may be a little less snooty about cruise ships now,” said Wheatley,

He plugged the window with cushions but water kept seeping in with each wave and the pump became blocked. The wind vane used for self-steering also broke and a steering cable snapped.

A cargo ship initially diverted to his aid but he said the captain had no viable plan to get him on board.

The Hercules crew told him by radio that QM2 was fairly near and he joked with them that, if he had a choice, he wanted to be rescued by the liner.

QM2 lowered a rescue boat with a crew of three and he jumped across when its bow came up to his cockpit.

Wheatley has sailed across the Atlantic 19 times before, eight of those single-handed, but had never been on a cruise.

“I may be a little less snooty about cruise ships now,” said Wheatley, speaking to The Times from QM2, on which he has been given a Princess Grill stateroom with private balcony, a king-size bed and nine options of pillow.