Alain Delord, French solo sailor attempting a circumnavigation in his A35 yacht Tchouk Tchouk Nougat, has been dismasted some 400 nm south of Tasmania in the Southern Ocean. He is now in a liferaft pending rescue by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, having abandoned his yacht, which had suffered hull damage during the dismasting.
Happier times - Alain Delord as he heads out for his circumnavigation
Overnight, aircraft crews have remained in regular communication with a solo yachtsman who abandoned his vessel and has been in a life raft south west of Tasmania for nearly 72 hours.
Three commercial aircraft were used in last night’s operation and crews have maintained a regular communications schedule with the French native sailor. Two of the planes had French interpreters on board to aid in communication efforts.
Today, up to four aircraft will attend the scene while the cruise ship PV Orion makes its way towards the life raft, expected to arrive later this afternoon.
The sailor has been dropped food, water, communications equipment and a survival suit. AMSA has attempted to make contact with vessels which have been identified within 100 nautical miles of the life raft, but has not been successful.
Delord had been caught in a severe system before the dismasting. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority(AMSA) is coordinating the rescue operation. On Friday night, AMSA’s Essendon-based Dornier aircraft confirmed the sailor had abandoned his yacht and was in a life raft.
A dream ended - Alain Delord’s intended route, showing dismasting and abandonment point
A cruise ship, Orion, has started making its way towards the yacht’s position and is due to arrive tomorrow (Sunday) evening. Aircraft will remain in the area until a vessel is able to assist. The location is too distant for a helicopter to rescue the sailor.
The Orion, the only vessel responding to the distress call it received on Friday, was 11 days into an 18-day Antarctic and sub-Antarctic tour when it was asked to divert to the rescue. It is equipped with 10 Zodiacs and highly experienced crew perfectly suited to mount a recovery effort in heavy seas.
'It is going to be tough,' says Orion expedition leader Don McIntrye. 'The forecast is for 30 knot winds gusting to 40 knots and the seas will probably be around seven metres. He has to hang on until tomorrow night and that will be really challenging as his liferaft could capsize at any time.
'His biggest threat will be the physical damage from the waves and hypothermia from the cold. Hopefully he will be wearing a survival suit. The French have a very good understanding of the need for survival suits. It'll really improve his chances of survival.'
In yesterday’s task, the Dornier dropped a second life raft and communications equipment. An associate of the sailor contacted AMSA early on Friday morning after the yacht had been dismasted.
After making contact with the sailor, who did not declare he was in distress at the time, AMSA advised him to head towards Hobart.
At approximately 1:00pm AEDT that afternoon, AMSA detected an emergency beacon activation from the yacht 500 nautical miles south west of Hobart.
Three other solo sailors are currently attempting non-stop unassisted circumnavigations from west to east. They are British sailor Jeanne Socrates in her 38ft Nereida who left Vancouver in September and has already passed Cape Horn in calm conditions, Indian sailor Abilash Tomy, who left Mumbai on November 1st on his 50 ft Hallberg Rassy designed (but Indian built) Mhadei, and Chinese sailor Guo Chuan, who left Quindao on November 18 on an Akilaria 40.
A fourth boat, Maserati, skippered by Italian sailor Giovanni Soldini, is approaching the Horn from east to west. They are expecting tough conditions as 35kt winds are forecast 'on the nose'.