In rough post-storm conditions in the southern Indian Ocean, Irish sailor Gregor McGuckin is heroically attempting to reach seriously-injured fellow competitor Abilash Tomy of India in the dismasted Thuriya 90 miles away, despite McGuckin’s own boat Hanley Energy Endurance sustaining a dismasting in the same storm on Friday writes W M Nixon.
An international rescue operation is now underway through several navies and international agencies. But as the stricken boats are nearly 1900 miles from the nearest land in southwest Australia, they are about as inaccessible as possible. However, a French Fisheries patrol vessel with full medical facilities may be the best hope, but she is still at some distance and McGuckin may find himself first at the scene if he gets there tomorrow under a mixture of emergency jury rig and engine power.
"Gregor McGuckin is heroically attempting to reach seriously-injured fellow competitor Abilash Tomy"
The wind is forecast to ease, though an enormous and very confused sea will continue to run. But every second counts, as Tomy – an officer in the Indian Navy who became the first Indian to sail solo round the world in 2013 - has sustained such a serious back injury that he is confined to his bunk and unable to reach any source of fresh water, while many of his communication systems have been disabled.
Barry Pickthall of the Golden Globe Race organisation adds: Overnight Saturday, an Indian P8 Orion military plane out of Mauritius overflew Thuriya to assess the yacht’s condition. Photographs taken by the crew show the yacht dismasted with her rig still attached to the hull acting as a sea anchor, and slowing her drift westwards.
Abhilash Tomy, who has reported severe back injuries, is unable to move from his bunk, but heard the plane fly overhead and acknowledged this by turning his emergency beacon off and on.
Two further planes, one outbound from Perth, and an Australian Defence Force P8 Orion operating from Reunion Island also overflew the two yachts a few hours later and managed to communicate directly with McGuckin. JMRCC in Canberra, which is organising this multinational rescue with Indian and French authorities, can now position aircraft overhead during any rescue operations on the water.
The Australian authorities have also despatched the Anzac class frigate HMAS Ballerat from Fremantle overnight. She is due to reach the area around 23:00UTC on Sept 27. The Indian Navy has also diverted the frigate INS Satpura, and tanker INS Jyoti Mission from exercises off South Africa to assist in the rescue.
A spokesman for the Atlantic Youth Trust who have a role in co-ordinating McGuckin's campaign said at 3 pm: 'Please be advised that communications will be limited during the current situation. We can report Gregor is safe and making his way towards Abhilash Tomy's position. We are in regular contact with Gregor and the race management and Gregor is speaking to the rescue coordination body. Our priority is the safety of the two skippers and we will issue a statement in due course'