He started with a 24 hour disadvantage due to engine problems but after a week at sea Irish solo sailor Enda O'Coineen has hauled himself back into the Transat St Barth – Port la Foret race and now trails the fleet by only 55 nautical miles. In seventh place, the Galway Bay sailor is closing in on Canada's Eric Holden. It's been a great debut performance for the IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager and it looks like there will be more gains for the Irish yacht due to the injury of the fleet leader. Paul Meilhat is currenlty awaiting airlift by helicopter.
Yesterday, Meilhat was seriously injured during a manoeuvre. At the time, IMOCA60 SMA was sailing downwind under mainsail alone and two reefs, around twenty miles to the south-west of the Azores archipelago, in 50 knots of wind and 8 metre waves. Paul immediately contacted his team to alert them about the incident: he has pain in the ribs, the hip and the right leg.
Race Management for the Transat Saint-Barth / Port La Forêt and the MRCC in Ponta Delgada (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) were alerted straightaway. Initially, Paul and his team decided to find 'shelter' for the boat in the lee of the island of Sao Miguel.
At 15:30 GMT, when Paul confirmed that he was having considerable difficulty moving himself around the boat, the emergency services were triggered. The patrol boat from the Portuguese navy, Viana Do Castelo, heads to the zone. However, the weather conditions are such that it is not possible to envisage an airlift by helicopter or a vessel to come alongside in the immediate future.
SMA is currently barepoled and is drifting offshore at around 6 knots, escorted by the navy patrol boat, which will remain alongside him throughout the night. Paul is in permanent contact with his team and with the medical department in Lorient, Brittany.
Today, Tuesday, once the low currently plaguing the zone around the Azores has shifted over to the East, the weather conditions will improve and Paul can be airlifted by helicopter. SMA's team is on its way and will be in Sao Miguel at around lunchtime local time tomorrow, Tuesday.