Rescue skipper tells of cheers for stranded French sailor
- Published: 20/01/2013 at 06:45 PM
- Online news:
The captain of a cruise ship spoke on Monday of the dramatic rescue of a Frenchman adrift on a life-raft in huge seas, and the cheers from passengers when he was hauled safely on board.
This handout photo, released by Orion Expedition Cruises, shows French sailor Alain Delord (L-red) being hauled aboard the the MV Orion after being rescued by sailors onboard a rigid inflatable craft, 500 nautical miles southwest of Hobart, on January 20, 2013.
After three days on the raft in the Southern Ocean, solo yachstman Alain Delord was saved by the Antarctic adventure vessel MV Orion, 500 nautical miles southwest of Hobart, late Sunday.
Captain Mike Taylor said the vessel's 100 passengers on a once-in-a-lifetime trip had at first been "massively disappointed" to be diverted.
"But there was a cheer you could hear right over the ship when we pulled him in through the door," Taylor told ABC radio.
He said the Orion was heading from Antarctica to Macquarie Island and was 680 miles south of Delord when contacted by Australia's Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) in Canberra.
"It took us a full 53 hours to get from where we were to him," the Briton said.
Taylor spoke of huge swells and strong winds that made for conditions as extreme as any he had experienced and said that without the help of the RCC and aerial detection, the crew of Orion would never have found the sailor.
"It was unbelievable how difficult he was to see," Taylor said, describing how the orange raft would bob up atop a mighty wave and then disappear again.
Delord, who set off on his voyage in early October, abandoned his yacht Tchouk Tchouk Nougat on Friday after the mast broke and the hull was damaged too far from land for a helicopter to reach him.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) deployed three aircraft to airdrop food, water, communications equipment and a safety suit and had stayed in regular contact with him.
Amid fears Delord would have to spend a third night at sea, Orion reached him before sunset.
Captain Taylor told ABC Delord was in better shape than expected given his ordeal.
"He's very happy to be here, I can tell you that," he said.
"I only saw him last night when he was under the doctor's care. He was a little bit subdued. I guess he's been in fear of his life for two or three days so probably the adrenalin has now left his system so he's like a limp rag.
"But he was in surprisingly good condition... 63 years old, three months on a yacht, three days in a raft.
"He was able to stand and he was able to to clear the canopy on his raft to help us with the rescue so he's in good shape."
Delord reportedly tucked into lamb shanks and a glass of red wine to celebrate after the rescue.
Doctor Chris Bulstrode, who examined Delord, said he was surprised at how well he had coped given the experience "must have been a devastating shock to him".
"He had been at sea for three months. And of course now being surrounded by lots of people -- he has not seen a human being for three months, and suddenly he is the centre of attention," he told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Orion expedition leader Don McIntyre said on Facebook that a wave had flooded part of the ship when crews initially opened a side door in an attempt to reach Delord.
"We shut the side door fast... then the captain repositioned and gave the okay to open again.
"I was amazed to see the raft just 20 metres from us, sitting in calm water in the lee of the ship with Alain waving," he said.
McIntyre, a Tasmanian yachtsman, gave the go-ahead to lower a Zodiac inflatable vessel into the water and intercept the life raft.
The Orion was due to sail into Hobart, Tasmania, early Tuesday morning.
Delord, an experienced solo yachtsman, was reportedly following the route of the Vendee Globe round-the-world ocean race.
The Australian navy famously rescued Frenchman Thierry Dubois and Briton Tony Bullimore after several days adrift in the Southern Ocean during the 1996/97 edition of the Vendee Globe.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency