Two sailors competing in the Golden Globe Race have been rescued in dramatic circumstances following a fierce storm in the remote south-western Indian Ocean.
Abhilash Tomy and Gregor Mcguckin were both dismasted in a storm that affected the entire Golden Globe fleet.
Tomy was about 1860 nautical miles west of Perth when the storm snapped both masts on his 10-metre yacht Thuriya, rolling the yacht and incapacitating the skipper. He managed to contact race organisers and activate an EPIRB which triggered an urgent air and water search involving the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), along with Indian and French authorities.
The French fisheries patrol vessel Osiris reached sailor Abhilash Tomy’s yacht on Monday and her crew successfully transferred him to the ship.
The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Canberra which co-ordinated the rescue reported: “Tomy is conscious, talking and onboard the Orisis.”
A radio briefing was held between the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre on Reunion Island, a doctor on Amsterdam Island, and the master of the Osiris before the French crew boarded Thuriya from Zodiac inflatable boats to administer immediate first-aid and assess his condition.
Abhilash Tomy, a Commander in the Indian Navy, had been confined to his bunk, unable to move since his yacht was rolled through 360° and dismasted in a vicious Southern Ocean storm last Friday.
Taking up the call to help the injured Indian sailor was fellow race competitor, Irishman Gregor McGuckin.
“He actually got within a couple of nautical miles of Tomy's position,” AMSA response centre manager Alan Lloyd said.
“His vessel had lost both of its main sails as well and was under jury rig, so it was an excellent piece of seamanship for him to proceed to Tomy and provide assistance.”
AMSA has described the area where the sailors became stranded as “one of the most remote areas on the planet”.
McGuckin, whose yacht Hanley Energy Endurance was also dismasted in the same storm last week, was also safely evacuated to Osiris. McGuckin is reported to be well and in good health. McGuckin faced a 1900 mile sail across the Southern Ocean to Western Australia under a small jury rig and without an engine (his fuel was contaminated when the yacht capsized).
The decision was a responsible one taken by a professional sailor, when all the rescue assets were close by. The alternative would have been to continue sailing singlehanded without self-steering (also smashed in the capsize) and risk having to call on rescue services again should he be disabled further in another storm.
With the two solo yachtsmen safely aboard the Osiris, the French fisheries patrol ship will head to Amsterdam Island where the rescued sailors will be given a full medical examination. The Royal Australian Navy frigate, HMAS Ballarat, will sail to the island to collect the men and return to Australia.
Jack O’Rourke is a contributor to Ocean Media
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