Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Abhilash Tomy’s dismasted yacht Thuriya, photographed from an Indian military plane. Image: Indian Navy / PPL / GGR

Seriously injured Indian Golden Globe Race solo sailor Abhilash Tomy had to be rescued from his dismasted yacht Thuriya approximately 1,900 miles SW of Perth, Western Australia.

Abhilash Tomy, 39, is a Commander in the Indian Navy had been confined to his bunk, unable to move, after his yacht was rolled through 360° and dismasted in a vicious Southern Ocean storm.

Four days later the French fisheries patrol vessel Osiris, which carries medical support, reached Abhilash’s yacht and her crew successfully transferred him to the ship. The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Canberra, which co-ordinated the rescue, reported: “Tomy is conscious, talking and on board the Orisis.”

A multinational search operation had been under way to rescue the injured sailor following an initial message stating simply: ROLLED. DISMASTED. SEVERE BACK INJURY. CANNOT GET UP.

Don McIntyre, the Race Chairman based in Les Sables d’Olonne where the Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race began on 1 July said: “We are very grateful to all these international organisations for mobilising their resources so quickly and for the lead role taken by MRCC in Canberra.

The position of Tomy’s yacht Thuriya, a replica of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s yacht Suhail, winner of the first GGR 50 years ago, was 1,900 miles south west of Perth at the extreme limit of immediate rescue range.

An Indian P8 Orion military plane out of Mauritius overflew Thuriya to assess the yacht’s condition. Photographs taken by the crew showed the yacht dismasted with her rig still attached to the hull acting as a sea anchor, and slowing her drift westwards.

Abhilash Tomy. Image: Abhilash Tomy/PPL/GGR

Abhilash Tomy, who reported severe back injuries, was unable to move from his bunk, but heard the plane fly overhead and acknowledged this by turning his emergency beacon off and on.

The 39-year-old Indian yachtsman had been lying in third place in the Golden Globe Race when he and fellow competitor, Irishman Gregor McGuckin were overtaken by a 70knot storm and 15m seas.

The 32-year-old Irishman managed to build a jury rig and hand steer his yacht Hanley Energy Endurance for four days to within 30 miles of his fellow competitor in order to be on site to assist with the rescue if required.

McGuckin did not declare an emergency for his own situation despite being rolled over and losing his mast. However, given the extremely remote location and the condition of his yacht, it was deemed the appropriate course of action to abandon his yacht under a controlled evacuation scenario when the opportunity arose. Gregor McGuckin was therefore rescued later the same day.

The storm also twice knocked down the yacht of second placed Dutchman Mark Slats.

Mark was excused from turning back to assist in the rescue. He was still facing 40-knot winds and 15m seas and was washed overboard during one of several knockdowns, but saved by his safety tether. He reported that he had 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.

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