Saturday January 19, 2013
Australian rescue under way for French yachtsman
SYDNEY: Australian authorities were Saturday coordinating a rescue operation for a French yachtsman who had abandoned his boat and was drifting in a life raft hundreds of nautical miles off Tasmania.
A cruise ship is on its way to the man, who was forced to leave his yacht after it lost its mast and sustained damage to the hull in rough weather, but is not expected to reach him until Sunday.
"He is a very experienced sailor," a spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority told AFP, adding that officials had been in contact with him via VHF radio and he had not reported any injuries.
The spokeswoman would not name the man but said he had been at sea for a number of months as he attempted a round-the-world voyage.
"Obviously he got into some trouble on Friday," she said. "An associate of his in France made contact with us."
It is understood the sailor had all necessary safety equipment, including an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), satellite phone, VHF radio and a survival suit, when he hit the rough weather.
On Friday AMSA initially advised the sailor, who did not declare he was in distress at the time, to head towards Hobart.
But later that afternoon, the authority detected an emergency beacon activation from the yacht 500 nautical miles southwest of the southern Australian island state capital.
AMSA said one of its Dornier aircraft had later confirmed the sailor had abandoned his yacht and was in a life raft.
Aircraft are attempting to raise communications with fishing vessels in the area to go to his aid but a cruise ship, Orion, has already started making its way towards the yacht's position.
However, it is not expected to arrive until late Sunday.
Authorities said Saturday they were sending two more aircraft to communicate with the sailor and vessels in the area, adding that aircraft would remain in the vicinity until a ship can assist.
The location is too distant for a helicopter to rescue the sailor, AMSA said.
On Friday, the Dornier dropped a second life raft and communications equipment. - AFP