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Dismasted Russian solo sailor rescued in Bass Strait

by Des Ryan on 23 Apr 2013
Location of rescue .. .
It was a quest that many dream of, but few see to fruition. 47-year-old Sergey Zjukov built his own 24ft boat and sailed it across the Atlantic twice before setting off from Portugal on a solo round-world journey. He had successfully sailed past two of the Great Capes - Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin, but made one big mistake.

While 70-year-old Jeanne Socrates, who passed Australia recently, and most other solo sailors go south of the South East Cape in Tasmania, Sergey Zjukov chose to visit the coastal town of Portland and then go through Bass Strait, between Tasmania and the mainland of Australia - shorter and not as far south as the Southern Ocean route.

But Bass Strait is dreaded by Australian sailors in stormy conditions, because of its shallow water which whips into short high seas. Hit with a storm during his passage, he fought the storm for two nights without sleep, carefully guiding his tiny sailing boat.

Finally he had taken a nap but without his help the boat had broached, the mast snapped, and the hull began to take on water. He realised that it was time to call for help and let off his EPIRB.

However, the rough - nine metre - seas prevented any vessels and most aircraft from getting to the solo yachtsman on Friday with his rescuers on board a Victoria Police helicopter battling the high breaking waves and low fuel to save him.

They were running out of fuel when the police rescue helicopter located Mr Zhukov, father of three, in his holed yacht 110nm south of Mallacoota on the south east coast of Victoria

When he was lowered down to sea level, Leading Senior Constable Brad Pascoe had to compete with the undulating nine-metre waves as he hoisted the stranded yachtsman to safety.

'We were literally a minute or so from having to abort the rescue and head back inland to refuel,' he said after the rescue. 'We were pushed to the top end of limits of what we are capable of.'

The team touched back down on dry land with only five minutes of fuel left in the tank.


Mr Zhukov said he understood the operation was dangerous for all involved and called Senior Constable Pascoe 'a real hero'.

The search and rescue mission was co-ordinated by Australian Search and Rescue with the assistance of Victoria Police's Airwing and Water Police members from the Rescue Coordination Centre. The Royal Australian Navy also assisted in the rescue.

The yacht was abandoned, but was holed and expected to sink quickly.

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