Barry Pickthall's update on Tony Bullimore's big arrival in Australia earlier today 21/11/06
Tony Bullimore and his crew arrived with a bang – quite literally – at Albany, West Australia earlier today when two inflatables acting as ‘tugs’ failed to stop the 102ft catamaran from slamming into the wharf.
Crewman Simon Redding, who was trying to orchestrate the two support boats from the port bow of Doha 2006, was thrown into the water, but came to no harm. Nor was their any damage to the boat or dock.
“It was embarrassing to have this happen in front of 150 press people all lined up on the dock, but these things happen. The guys in the inflatables had no previous experience of doing this kind of job. I wasn’t worried about the boat. She’s as strong as an ox. I was more worried about the dock and knocking some of the press into the water!” He joked.
After the headline treatment he has received from some quarters of the press during the 11 days Tony and his crew were out of contact, he might be forgiven for quietly wanting to give the offending press a god ducking but Tony remained calm and relaxed.
“We have come in to take on fuel, make one or two small repairs and get a technician to look at the satellite communications onboard Doha 2006, before continuing the voyage to Hobart. I hope to leave on Wednesday or Thursday.” Tony added.
He also had an opportunity to explain what went wrong with the communications systems onboard that led to his 11-day silence.
“It was simply a communication problem. We have three satellite phones onboard which meet the safety standards set by international race organisations like the Oryx Quest round the world race which I finished second in last winter. We started out using the Mini M sat phone as our main coms and e-mail system, but this does not have good coverage in the Indian Ocean. We lost coverage with this on 7 November, shortly after crossing the Equator and swapped over to the Fleet 33 and 77 phones which do have good coverage in the Indian Ocean. However, we couldn’t get a connection – We think the problem may lie with the antenna and will now get this checked out
“My shore team knew that we were having problems with the satellite phone, but after a week of no contact, reported this as a matter of course to Falmouth Coastguard and asked if they could try and raise us by radio or alert shipping in the area to report our position. Perth and Canberra Maritime Radio Stations then tried to raise us on the radio and it was this message that someone overheard and passed to the media as a rescue alert. The Sydney Morning Herald then ran a story headlined ‘Bullimore sets off new alert’ and it then spread around the world like wildfire. We did not set off an alert. We were not overdue and there was never any concern for our safety either from my shore team or the rescue authorities.”
Once in Hobart, Doha 2006 will be stripped of three tons of extraneous equipment including her two engines and sail drives prior to Bullimore setting off on a solo attempt to break the 70 day barrier for sailing around the world. The record is currently held by Dame Ellen MacArthur with a time of 71 days 14 hours.