Dutch solo sailor in Portimao Global Ocean Race rescue

Plucked from disaster
At 11:45 GMT today (30/12/08), 69 year-old, Dutch solo sailor, Nico Budel, was rescued from his stricken Open 40 racing yacht, Hayai, in the Indian Ocean by the 17,000 tonne bulk carrier CSK Radiance bound for Rotterdam. The rescue was undertaken in 7metre seas and around 20 knots of wind, 900miles south-east of Madagascar bringing an end to 48 hours of drama for Budel, his family and the Portimão Global Ocean Race organisation and race fans.

The 948ft CSK Radiance made two passes, manoeuvring the huge ship alongside Budel’s 40ft yacht before the Dutch sailor was transferred aboard. “The conditions for rescue were not ideal,” said Race Director Josh Hall who, along with MRCC Reunion and the captain of the ship, coordinated the rescue. “There was a seven metre swell running and a moderate wind of around 20 knots, making it difficult to manoeuvre a ship the size of Radiance alongside a small yacht. Clearly Captain Singson and his crew are highly experienced seamen and we thank them profusely for not only diverting to help Nico, but also for their skill and determination in pulling off a successful operation.”

Just two hours after the rescue, Nico Budel was in great spirits: “I feel terrible,” he said, his laughter clearly audible over the satellite phone link. “The people are so good to me here on the ship, although I am very sad to leave my boat. We followed her, but I have opened the seacocks and she will sink.” Budel is clear that the timing of the rescue was crucial. “We had some water coming in around the keel and the keel bulb was just staying on by one bolt. It was not good.” However, the irrepressible Dutchman was already planning for the future just minutes after rescue from the Indian Ocean. “The most important thing now is to find a new boat and I can start the race again in New Zealand. I must find a boat. They will put me in Cape Town and a day later I will be home. Then I must get a new boat.”

The rescue is a culmination of intense coordination by the worldwide network of maritime rescue services, the Portimão Global Ocean Race organisation, the rescue ship and the yacht’s skipper. “We are overwhelmingly grateful to MRCC Reunion for their level of expertise,” said Hall, “and very pleased that Nico, a superb seaman in his own right, was safely transferred from Hayai to CSK Radiance.”

A 48 hour cliff-hanger
The highly experienced, 69 year-old yachtsman is a competitor in the Portimão Global Ocean Race, a round-the-world race for single-handed and double-handed crews on board 40ft racing yachts. Budel sustained damage to the keel of his ten year-old, carbon fibre boat on 28th December and although Hayai was in no immediate danger, a fellow competitor, Belgian solo sailor Michel Kleinjans on Open 40 yacht, Roaring Forty, 600 miles east of Budel, was diverted towards the Dutch sailor’s position. Within hours, the situation for Budel deteriorated as the heavy lead bulb at the base of the keel worked loose and the risk of capsizing became a real threat. The solo sailor activated his EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) at 15:45 GMT on 28th December and a MAYDAY was issued. Rapidly, the Portimão Global Ocean Race organisers worked with MRCC Reunion (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) to divert two commercial ships towards the damaged yacht’s position to rescue Budel. Early on the morning of 29th, fellow competitor, Michel Kleinjans and the bulk carrier Nord-Kraft were stood down as CSK Radiance continued with the rescue.