Solo sailor rescued by cruise ship in Southern Ocean

AFP, SYDNEY

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 - Page 5

A French solo sailor adrift for days in a life raft on huge Southern Ocean swells after his yacht sank was recovered yesterday by the crew of an Antarctic cruise ship that had raced to his rescue.

Alain Delord was attempting to sail solo and without assistance around the world when his yacht, Tchouk Tchouk Nougat, was damaged in rough weather off southern Australia’s Tasmania Island on Friday.

The Frenchman was forced to abandon ship and has been adrift in a life raft on the Southern Ocean for more than three days.

Authorities were first alerted to his plight by a colleague on Friday morning and Delord activated his emergency beacon later that afternoon.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) dropped him food, water, communications equipment and a survival suit on Saturday and diverted an Antarctic cruise ship, the PV Orion, to go to his rescue.

The cruise ship, carrying 100 passengers, was diverted about 1,800km to his assistance and had battled deteriorating weather conditions to reach him before sunset, with fears he would have to spend a third night at sea.

However, AMSA said the Orion managed to find Delord and pluck him to safety, in an alert issued just after 9:30pm local time.

“I’m very pleased to confirm the solo sailor, who had been in a life raft in the Southern Ocean for the past three days, has been recovered by the cruise ship Orion and AMSA believes he is being taken to Hobart,” a spokeswoman said.

There were “scant” early details of the rescue, but AMSA said Delord had been recovered “safely and without injury.”

“He is currently receiving medical attention and early indications are that he is healthy,” the authority said.

“Weather conditions were better than expected and there was plenty of light in the area,” he added.

A Fairfax newspapers reporter on board the Orion said Delord had been recovered by a Zodiac inflatable dinghy and looked “awake and relatively well” as he boarded the ship by a side door to cheers and whistles from those on board.

Orion captain Mike Taylor had warned passengers the stabilizers would have to be switched off as they approached Delord’s vicinity, and urged passengers worried about the ship rolling and rocking to lie down in bed.

The crew expected strong winds and waves of between 3m and 7m, and were preparing to approach the raft directly and winch Delord up if they were unable to launch the Zodiac.

The Orion was 11 days into an 18-day passenger cruise of the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic when it was drafted into the rescue. It was the only ship within 100 nautical miles (185km) to respond to AMSA’s distress call.

AMSA had stayed in regular contact with Delford leading up to the rescue.

The experienced yachtsman has been at sea since October last year and was reportedly following the route of the Vendee Globe round-the-world ocean race.

Frenchman Thierry Dubois and Briton Tony Bullimore were famously rescued by the Australian navy after several days adrift in the Southern Ocean during the 1996-1997 edition of the Vendee Globe.