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Golden Globe Race - Day 83: Several messages from Abhilas Tomy

by Barry Pickthall, Golden Globe Race 22 Sep 2018 07:50 PDT 21 September 2018
Thuriya sailed by Abhilash Tomy © Christophe Favreau / PPL / GGR

GGR UPDATE 05:30UTC. 22/9/18

The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre is working hard to asses and co-ordinate all possible options to Rescue Abhilas Tomy who is as far from help as you can possibly be.

Late last night we were excited to receive the following messages from Tomy. Till then we had heard nothing but the first message and we were all very worried.

UNABLE 2 LEAVEBUNK.WILLTRY2CHECKPHONEANDMASTBYDAY Position: 39' 26.323 S 077' 29.848 E at 21 Sep 22:44 UTC

BACK IS EXTREMELY STIFF.DIFFICULT TO. EPIRB AND EXACT SITUATION Position: 39' 26.298 S 077' 29.862 E at 21 Sep 22:47 UTC

GGR received the following messages from TOMY at first light this morning:

“Activated EPIRB. Extremely difficult to walk, Might need stretcher, can’t walk, thanks safe inside the boat, Unable to reach 2nd YB3 or anything. Sat phone down.”

Tomy is incapacitated on his bunk inside the boat after being rolled and dismasted yesterday. He is using the portable Yellow Brick YB3 texting unit for messaging. Batteries on this unit may last days. His external YB3i tracking unit is still providing position data to the online GGR tracker but the power link to ships batteries is damaged so may go flat sometime. The hand held YB3 is a back up tracker also.

The primary sat phone is damaged. There is a second satphone and second YB3 texting unit in his Emergency GRAB BAG, but he cannot reach those units. He also has an AVIATION hand Held VHF radio in that bag. We have asked him to try to get that as there MAY BE? an aircraft flying down from Australia and later another Indian Air Force plane for a visual Over flight inspection. If these flights went ahead two way communication will be important. He is 2000 miles from Australia, so time for the aircraft on scene will be very short.

A French fisheries Vessel may be headed to the scene, but may not arrive for a few days. An Australian Navy vessel may be considered for assistance, but that may be 5 days or more away. Notice has been sent to any/all ships in the area to check if they can assist the Distress situation.

In a media release soon after this report:

Australian rescue authorities lead multinational mission to rescue injured Indian GGR solo sailor from dismasted yacht deep in the South Indian Ocean Media update 13:00 UTC 22.9.2018 Les Sables d’Olonne, France

Early today, Golden Globe Race HQ finally received a satellite text message from Abhilash Tomy, the injured Indian solo sailor dismasted in the South Indian Ocean some 1,900 miles SW of Perth, Australia on Friday. ACTIVATED EPIRB.CANT WALK.MIGHT NEED STRETCHER Position: 39' 25.297 S 077' 30.629 E at 22 Sep 02:28 UTC

From subsequent messages, rescue authorities in Australia and India now know that the 39 year old Naval Commander is safe onboard his disabled yacht Thuriya, but lying immobilised in his bunk. His latest message timed at 21:57 UTC READ: CAN MOVE TOES. FEEL NUMB. CAN’T EAT OR DRINK. TOUGH 2 REACH GRAB BAG

The MRCC in Canberra has subsequently picked up the yacht’s emergency signals and is now co-ordinating a multinational rescue mission.

An executive jet has been despatched from Perth, Western Australia to assess the situation and is expected to reach the area at around 02:30 UTC Sunday. The plane has sufficient fuel to remain on station for 3 hours, when her crew will assess the damage to the 36ft Indian yacht and attempt to make radio contact with Tomy. The aircraft will also overfly Gregor McGuckin’s Irish yacht Hanley Energy Endurance also dismasted during the same storm. McGuckin has since set up a jury rig and is attempting to motor sail the 90-mile distance to Tomy’s position.

The Australian authorities are also repositioning a search and rescue plane to Reunion Island to assist in the rescue mission together with the Anzac class frigate HMAS Ballerat which is preparing to leave Perth. She will take 4-5 days to reach the area but has a helicopter and full medical facilities onboard.

Much closer is the French fisheries patrol vessel Osiris, which expects to reach Thuriya some time Sunday PM UTC. She also has medical facilities onboard.

Independently, Indian authorities have despatched a military plane from Mauritius which could reach the area around 23:30 UTC today and also diverted the Indian Navy’s stealth frigate INS Satpura, and tanker INS Jyoti Mission from exercises off South Africa to assist in the rescue.

At 10:00 UTC today, Gregor McGuckin made a satellite phone call to Race HQ. The Irish yachtsman reported that he had utilised his spinnaker pole to rig a simple jury rig but found that the alloy tube was bending in heavy gusts. He is also having trouble with the engine, which keeps stopping. This may be caused by fuel contamination when the yacht was rolled and dismasted on Friday. He is also having to hand steer after his wind vane self-steering was smashed by the falling mast. Regardless, Gregor is making best time to Tomy under the circumstances and estimates that he could reach Thuriya’s position between 18:00 and 24:00 UTC on Sunday. Race organisers are providing him with regular range and bearing details.

Estonian GGR skipper Uku Randmaa, currently 400 miles west of the two distressed yachts will take 3 days to reach the area, and plans to assist Gregor.

Dutchman Mark Slats who is some 250 miles SW of the rescue area, has been excused from turning back to assist. He is still facing 40-knot winds and 15m seas and was washed overboard during one of several knockdowns early today, but saved by his safety tether. He reports that he has never seen conditions as bad. One wave crashed down on his boat Ophen Maverick, smashed through the companionway washboards and flooded the yacht’s electrics causing a small fire, which was quickly extinguished.

The rest of the GGR fleet have done well to make north to avoid a second viscous storm now approaching from the west, which should now pass south of them. There will still be big swells and strong winds, but nothing like the middle fleet experienced over the past 24 hours

Race organisers continue to work closely with The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre and are extremely grateful for the efforts being made by all involved.

GGR Entrant UKU RANDMAA is 400 miles west and is heading to the area and will also meet with GREGOR who was also dismasted. He will take about three days to reach the site. On the sat phone today Gregor confirmed he is making repairs to his boat and hopes to be able to make way under power toward Tomy. His windvane was damaged when the mast fell down, so he must hand steer now. The Rudder is making strange noises but it seems OK. He is 100 miles to the South West of Tomy and it will take at least one day travelling IF the weather allows. He is not at this time sure when he may get underway.AT 0530 UTC we recieved the following message from GREGOR ..JURY RIG SET.AIMING TO GET FURTHER NORTH

Mark Slats called the GGR office to confirm he is still in 15mtr seas and 40kts but it feels as if he is in a calm compared to what he went through. Conditions are now moderating. He was washed overboard at one point and flooded inside the boat when one wave smashed through his companionway door. He was Knocked down numerous times and has never seen conditions like it before. His HF radio is damaged and other electrical gear too. He is bruised and OK, but frustrated now that his position and the forecast winds do not make it possible for him to head toward Tomy, 230 miles to the west. GGR have advised him NOT to try, as it is too risky for him in strong headwinds.

GGR continue to work closely with The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center and is extremely grateful for the efforts being made by all involved.

It appears that the rest of the GGR fleet have done well to make NORTH over the past few days and the worst of the BIG storm approaching them may pass south below them. There will still be big swells and strong winds, but nothing like the middle fleet experienced over the past 24 hours.

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