No one ever said it was going to be easy, and this past fall a pair of competitors taking part in the ongoing Golden Globe Race 2018 were disabled in a major storm deep in the Indian Ocean, with one of them coming away seriously injured.
The dismastings took place around 80 days into the race, when Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy and Irishman Gregor McGuckin were overtaken by a gale packing 70-knot winds and 50ft waves some 1,900 miles southwest of Australia.
Tomy, sailing his 32ft ketch-rigged, Suhali-replica, Thuriya, was rolled a complete 360 degrees during which his rig not only went by the board, but he was almost completely incapacitated: to the point where it was a struggle even communicating with race headquarters via his Yellow Brick tracking unit’s texting function.
“Rolled. Dismasted. Severe back injury. Cannot get up,” he initially reported. Later he wrote: “Activated EPIRB. Extremely difficult to walk, Might need stretcher, can’t walk, thanks safe inside the boat, Unable to reach 2nd YB3 or anything. Sat phone down.”
McGuckin’s Biscay 36 Masthead ketch, Hanley Energy Endurance, which was about 90 southwest of Tomy at the time, also lost her rig after being rolled. But McGuckin personally came through the experience relatively unscathed and was able to cobble together a jury rig using his spinnaker pole and begin sailing toward Tomy’s position. Unfortunately, with his self-steering windvane smashed and his engine no longer working properly, he too was ultimately forced to abandon ship, eventually being picked up by the same ship that rescued Tomy, the French fisheries patrol vessel Osiris.
“The real heroes today are the professionals that coordinate and execute such missions,” McGuckin said afterward. “All services were tested to their limits and excelled. The international cooperation between Australia, France, and India has proven that no matter how remote, there is always cover.”
Meanwhile, as this issue went to press, a mere eight of the 18 sailors who first set out from Les Sables d’Olonne, France, in July remained at sea, with Dutch sailor Jean-Luc van den Heede in the lead aboard his Rustler 36 sloop Matmut and the fleet not expected to arrive back in France before this spring.
Marking the 50th anniversary of the original Golden Globe Race, in which Robin Knox-Johnson became the first person to sail nonstop alone around the world, the Golden Globe Race 2018 features a number of rules designed to recapture the spirit of Knox-Johnston’s experience. These include the requirement that all boats be built in conventional fiberglass with full keels and attached rudders. Any technologies not yet in existence back in the ’60s are also strictly forbidden. In other words, no GPS, no electronic autopilots and no sat-comms other than those on board for emergency use. For the latest on the event, visit goldengloberace.com.
Photos courtesy of Golden globe race 2018