Tuesday 17 October 2017

Irish sailor stranded in Pacific Ocean after losing his mast during round-the-world yacht race

Ger Keville

Ger Keville

In one of the most remote parts of the world, Irish sailor Enda O’Coineen's sole focus is on survival and getting to dry land.

O’Coineen was forced to pull out of the Vendée Globe round-the-world yacht race after losing his mast during a storm in the Pacific Ocean.

With no mast, O’Coineen is currently sailing blind and is at the mercy of the wind while he tries to brave the stormy conditions to tie a 'jury rig' which, he hopes, will be enough to steer him to safety.

The Vendée Globe round-the-world yacht race is described as the Everest of sailing with participants - who are allowed no outside help - setting off from Les Sables d’Olonne in France, travelling a 29,000-mile route and passing through the three great Capes - Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn.

O’Coineen is 200 miles south-east of Dunedin in New Zealand
O’Coineen is 200 miles south-east of Dunedin in New Zealand

Speaking to Independent.ie from his broken down yacht, the Kilcullen Voyager - Team Ireland, 200 miles south east of the south island in New Zealand, an exhausted O’Coineen says: "I have three life rafts, survival rations. It's on the edge.

O’Coineen has spent 57 gruelling days at sea and sailed through three storms in the Indian Ocean before his 120 foot mast came crashing down. Despite his predicament, he remains positive and has not ruled out getting the boat fixed in New Zealand and going on to become the first Irishman to complete the race.

"You take risks. History is clear – less than 50pc complete the course. I have spent 57 days at sea, halfway around the world. I’m desolate. I have taken the risk and have to accept responsibility," added O’Coineen.

"I have had very little sleep. I spent two hours cutting the rig free. It was a tough few hours in a storm cutting the rig from the boat.

"It will take three or four days to get to New Zealand. I am not in distress and don't want to call the rescue services. I can't sail and the wind is blowing me so I am trying to do up a jury rig to get sorted."

While O’Coineen's imminent concern is to get to dry land, he says he has a number of options going forward.

"I am exploring different options. I can get a new mast in New Zealand and complete the journey. I can ship the boat home or leave it in New Zealand. At the moment I am just looking at survival and getting to shore."

O’Coineen (60) revealed that he treated himself to a glass of champagne to ring in the New Year hours earlier and had, ironically, made a brief video discussing how his New Year's resolution was to take less risks in his life.

“You roll the dice,” he said.

“I was caught a little bit unawares. I was in 20-25kts of breeze and a very vicious 35kts squall came through and the self-steering malfunctioned just at the wrong moment.

"I did an involuntary gybe and then a gybe back. The boat was out of control and I was caught without the runner properly on and the mast snapped. I have to laugh because if I don't I will cry. The mast came clean off at the deck and in fact it was intact. But the whole rig went over the side. I had the difficult decision to make whether to try and save the rig or whether to save the hull of the boat.

“Ironically I had just done a little interview with myself for New Year. I celebrated with a small bottle of champagne. My alter personality asked me what my New Year's Resolution is.

"And my New Year's Resolution was to take less risk with my life. In business, in my life, I have taken a lot of risk. The risk enabled me to make enough money to buy this boat, to pursue the dream and to pursue my adventure. Bizarrely, only two hours earlier, I had recorded a video pledging to take less risk. And here I am. Risk is a four letter word, like a lot of meaningful four letter words in the English language.”

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