Golden Globe solo skipper Abhilash Tomy was dramatically rescued from the South Indian Ocean after he was badly injured and spent nearly 72 hours adrift in his dismasted yacht
Abhilash Tomy, the Golden Globe skipper who was dramatically rescued from the South Indian Ocean on Monday after nearly 72 hours adrift, is recovering well in hospital on Amsterdam Island.
Tomy was stranded, paralysed in his bunk after a dramatic knockdown in a 70-knot storm left him with a painful back injury, and dismasted his yacht Thuriya on 21 September.
Thuriya is a 32ft replica of Suhaili, the winner of the first Golden Globe Race in 1968. Abhilash Tomy is a former Indian Naval Commander, and was lying 3rdin the Golden Globe Race when he and other nearby competitors were caught in a low pressures system, which brought 70-knot winds and chaotic 14m seas.
Nearby Gregor McGuckin on Hanley Energy Endurance was also rolled through 360° and dismasted, although McGuckin was not hurt.
Tomy texted race organisers after the knockdown to say: “ROLLED. DISMASTED. SEVERE BACK INJURY. CANNOT GET UP”
When there was no further communication for 12 hours, organisers alerted the MRCC in Canberra, which launched a full international rescue operation. Aircraft from both the Australian and Indian forces, and a domestic plane, flew over Tomy’s position, and found the yacht lying with the rig alongside the hull, and the main hatch open.
Tomy later reported: “ACTIVATED EPIRB.CANT WALK.MIGHT NEED STRETCHER”
Unable to reach his grab bag, Tomy had limited satellite communication, and it wasn’t until some 48 hours after his injury that he was able to try and consume some fluids. On Sunday 23 September, he sent the message: “Lugged cans of ice tea, Having that. Vomiting continuously. Chest burning.”
Tomy was rescued by the French fisheries patrol vessel Osiris on Monday, 24 September. Crew from the Osiris were able to board Thuriya and transfer Tomy to the rescue vessel by stretcher on a Zodiac RIB.
McGuckin, who had been making his way to Tomy’s assistance under jury rig, was not in distress but accepted a controlled evacuation of his yacht as he was sailing under jury rig without self-steering or reliable engine.
Tomy and McGuckin were taken to the small French territory of Amsterdam Island, a research station in the middle of the Indian Ocean with around 20 residents. There a doctor was able to X-Ray Tomy and assess his injuries, which are described as serious but understood to be muscular rather than skeletal.
Captain Dilip Donde, Abhilash Tomy’s shore manager, reported today that Tomy can now stand and is eating and drinking, but requires complete rest.
The Australian frigate HMAS Ballarat, which was despatched by the Canberra MRCC during the rescue, will arrive within helicopter range of Ile Amsterdam at first light tomorrow (Thursday 27). McGuckin, who is in good health, will then be transferred by helicopter to HMAS Ballarat for onward transportation to Fremantle, Australia, arriving there on 2-3 October.
Abhilash Tomy will remain in hospital on Amsterdam Island until the arrival of the Indian Navy Frigate INS Satpura on Friday 28 September, when he will be transferred by helicopter for ongoing medical treatment and return to India.
Neither yacht was scuttled during the rescue. Capt Donde told race organisers that the plan was for the Indian frigate to tow Thuriya to St Paul’s Island some 40 miles north, where a crew would stay with her to make repairs before sailing her to India.
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McGuchan’s yacht Hanley Energy Endurancewas also left drifting when the Osiris crew picked him off the yacht. In a statement today, Neil O’Hagen, spokesman for Team Ireland said:
“During the controlled evacuation of Hanley Energy Endurance, McGuckin was instructed to leave the vessel afloat.
“The French fisheries patrol vessel Osirisinstructed McGuckin that scuttling the vessel would be in breach of international maritime regulations. Hence, McGuckin removed all debris from the deck that could become separated, secured all equipment on board, and ensured the AIS beacon was active.
“The power source to the AIS device is solar panels which should remain active without any outside assistance reducing the risk to other vessels. Precautionary steps were also taken to ensure the relatively small amount of fuel onboard is secure.”
Look out for a full report on the rescue, and analysis of the circumstances which led up to it, in the November issue of Yachting World.