AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Sunday 20 January 2013
Last update 20 January 2013 5:39 am
SYDNEY: An Antarctic cruise ship was racing yesterday to rescue a French yachtsman who had abandoned his boat and was drifting in a life raft hundreds of nautical miles off Australia’s southern island of Tasmania.
Australian authorities are coordinating the rescue of the round-the-world sailor, who was forced to leave his yacht after it lost its mast and sustained damage to the hull in rough conditions on Friday.
The expedition cruise vessel, Orion, was not expected to reach the Frenchman until late yesterday and a spokesman for the company said the ship could be in for rough seas on arrival, with seven-meter waves.
“He is a very experienced sailor,” a spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority told AFP, adding that when officials had been in contact with him via radio he had not reported any injuries.
“Obviously he got into some trouble on Friday. An associate of his in France made contact with us.” She declined to name the man but said he had been at sea for a number of months as he attempted a round-the-world voyage on his yacht Tchouk Nougat.
The yacht is skippered by accomplished sailor Alain Delord and supporters left messages on his Facebook page wishing him “bon courage”. Three aircraft attended the scene yesterday and dropped communications equipment, food, water and a survival suit. AMSA said it believed the sailor had recovered most of the equipment.
A French interpreter was onboard one of the aircraft and it was hoped they would gain further information on Delord’s condition.
Up to three aircraft will attend the area throughout the night.