Solo racer Richard Tolkien, racing in The Transat bakerly race, is rescued by a cargo ship after calling for head with a head injury

British sailor Richard Tolkien has been rescued by a cargo ship after sustaining a head injury during the solo The Transat bakerly race from Plymouth to New York.

Tolkien, 61, was racing his IMOCA 60, 44, some 800 miles west of Horta in the Azores and was fixing a broken staysail stay when he was hit twice in the head by the furling drum. He began bleeding badly and called the nearest ship for assistance before abandoning his yacht.

Richard Tolkien's IMOCA 60, 44

Richard Tolkien’s IMOCA 60, 44

Tolkien’s wound was stitched on board the cargo ship Anton Topic, which is bound for Phildelphia, and he was well enough to give an interview today in which he explained more about the accident:

“Apart from being tired and bit shocked, I’m OK,” he said.

“I had had a sustained period of bad weather…and the wind had started to go down from 40 knots to 30. “ thought there was no trouble ahead and I was down below, looking forward to calmer conditions, when there was a large bang.

“The fitting holding the staysail stay to the deck had ruptured. By the time I got on deck the sail was flailing around. I turned the boat downwind and spent the next two hours trying to sort out the mess – it is very difficult on a boat of that size.

“I was hit in the face and then later again by a glancing blow to the side of the face by the furling drum at the bottom of the stay. On the second occasion there was a lot of blood on the deck and I went down into the cabin and realised I needed to call for assistance.

“I used the AIS to [identify and then] call up the nearest ship and the Anton Topic and its captain and crew were not too far away and came towards me and manoeuvred their ship alongside me. It was not easy at all and then I had to climb up the pilot ladder at the side of the ship and I only just made it, so it was very difficult.

“I had to leave the boat which has a tracker on it – not an easy situation – and I hope to rescue the boat. It was just a glancing blow – but if it had been a bit more full-on, then the outcome could have been very different.”

Tolkien, a banker who has been involved in shorthanded multihull and Open 60 racing since the early Nineties, is an experienced sailor and one of the few amateur entries in the IMOCA class. He competed in the 2000 OSTAR and raced in the 2000/2001 Vendee Globe solo round the world race and was 13th out of the 24 boat fleet at the Equator before being forced to retire in the South Atlantic with rig problems.

Hopefully with the aid of his yacht’s tracker, Tolkien will be able to recover his yacht. He has entered the Vendée Globe later this year and was using The Transat bakerly to qualify for the race.