As we reported on Friday, a severe Southern Ocean storm, with winds to 70 knots and seas to 49 feet, resulted in the rolling and dismasting of two solo sailors competing in the old-school-style Golden Globe Race.
Irish sailor Gregor McGuckin suffered only minor injuries, but Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy was severely incapacitated and suffering. Tomy’s initial message to GGR HQ was: "ROLLED. DISMASTED. SEVERE BACK INJURY. CANNOT GET UP." Subsequent messages over the weekend were: "ACTIVATED EPIRB.CANT WALK.MIGHT NEED STRETCHER," and, "CAN MOVE TOES. FEEL NUMB. CAN’T EAT OR DRINK. TOUGH 2 REACH GRAB BAG," and "LUGGED CANS OF ICE TEA. HAVING THAT.VOMITTING CONTINUINGLY. CHEST BURNING."
Tomy’s remote location, 1,900 miles southwest of Perth, Australia, made rescue a challenge. As a matter of fact, the closest vessel to him was McGuckin’s dismasted Hanley Energy Endurance. But McGuckin put together a jury rig and proceeded, at 2.2 knots, toward Tomy.
Fortunately for the rescuers and rescuees, the storm had passed and conditions were favorable: 15-20 knots of breeze, 6-ft sea swells and good visibility. On Sunday, the French fisheries patrol vessel Osiris reached Tomy’s yacht, and her crew boarded Thuriya from Zodiac inflatable boats to administer immediate first aid and assess his condition before successfully transferring him to the ship. The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Canberra, Australia, which coordinated the rescue, reported: "Tomy is conscious, talking, and onboard the Orisis. Australian and Indian long-range P8 Orion reconnaissance aircraft are circling overhead. Thuriya’s position is 39° 32.79S and 78° 3.29E."
Faced with a 1,900-mile sail across the Southern Ocean to Western Australia under a small jury rig without an engine (his fuel was contaminated when the yacht capsized), McGuckin accepted a rescue as well. The crew from Osiris picked him up and reported him to be "well and in good spirits."
Osiris is now en route to the isolated île Amsterdam, a day away in the middle of the Indian Ocean. (Try going to Google Maps and see how far you have to zoom out to see any substantial land mass!) From there one option is to transfer them to the Australian frigate HMAS Ballarat, due to reach the island in 72 hours, for transportation to Australia.
We wish both sailors a speedy recovery from their trauma. Look for more on this story in Sightings in the October 1 issue of Latitude 38.