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Orion on rescue mission to save French sailor

by Peter Campbell on 20 Jan 2013
Orion now in the Southern Ocean on course to rescue a French sailor. Peter Campbell
Orion, a small luxury cruise ship, is on course on Sunday evening to rescue a French sailor aboard a liferaft around 500 nautical miles south of Tasmania. An Australian Maritime Safety Authority plane discovered Alain Delord’s raft in the Southern Ocean after his single-handed voyage around the world came to an end when his yacht lost its mast.

An Australian Maritime Safety Authority aircraft, a Dornier, located Alain Delord in his liferaft on Friday night after receiving a distress signal from the Frenchman, who had abandoned his yacht after it was dismasted and the hull holed.

Delord, an experienced yachtsman who has logged 27 TransAtlantic crossings, was on a single-handed voyage around the world and was south-west of Tasmania when the yacht lost its mast. In heavy seas, it seems that the jagged end of the mast holed the yacht, forcing Delord to abandon the boat and take to his liferaft.

The aircraft dropped a second liferaft, a survival suit, food and water, along with communication equipment to the yachtsman, with a translator assisting in communication with Delord, who apparently only speaks French.

The Orion, 11 days into an 18 day Antarctic and sub-Antarctic cruise with about 100 passengers and 30 crew, was near Commonwealth Bay, responded to the emergency call and AMSA asked the captain to divert to the rescue. It is expected to reach the yachtsman about 6pm today.

The ship is equipped with inflatable Zodiac boats and an experienced crew capable of mounting a rescue despite reports of a seven metre swell and 50 knot winds.

AMSA confirmed on Saturday night that Delord had not reported any injuries.

Among the passengers of Orion is Tasmanian yachtsman Don McIntyre who is leading an expedition on the Orion. He has been quoted in Hobart media as saying 'His biggest threat…will be the physical damage from the waves and hypothermia from the cold….hopefully he is wearing a survival suit.'

A spokesman for AMSA said the experienced French yachtsman had 'taken all the safety precautions he possibly could', including conserving phone and radio batteries.

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