'It was a very hairy moment' - Irish sailor talks life on the high seas after historic transatlantic race finish
Ocean sailing is considered an extreme sport, with less than 100 people having succeeded in sailing single-handed non-stop around the world
Published 20/12/2015 | 17:54
Irish sailor Enda O’Coineen (60) has finished third in a solo transatlantic sailing race and will go down in history as the first Irish person ever to achieve a podium finish in a leg of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championships.
The leg in question was a non-stop journey from the Caribbean to France (Transat St Barth - Port la Foret), a distance of some 3,400 nautical miles.
The Ocean Masters World Championship is comprised of six very challenging races - the Vendee Globe, the Fastnet Race, the Route du Rhum, the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Barcelona World Race and of course the Transat St Barth - Port la Foret.
O'Coineen, originally from Galway, told Independent.ie that he had a truly nightmarish start to the race, as a technical difficulty meant his 60-foot-yacht had to be removed from the water and serviced before it could begin sailing.
The delay meant that his yacht, 'Currency House Kilcullen' was 26 hours behind the other competitors.
However the solo sailor was not going to give up without a fight, and he staged a remarkable comeback.
Unfortunately the worst was not yet behind him, as he recounted a terrifying moment when he feared that "his number was up".
"The boat was about 250 miles south of the Azores in 50 knot winds.
"There was a problem on the foredeck, and because the wind was so strong I couldn't walk up to check it out, I had to crawl.
"I had turned the auto-steer on before leaving the cockpit," he said.
What O'Coineen didn't expect was for the boat to perform an involuntary jibe (a turning manoeuvre in which the stern of the boat passes through the wind) while he was away from the tiller.
"The vessel lay on its side for a long time, mercifully no water made its way on board.
"Eventually it righted itself as it is designed to do.
"But it was a very hairy moment," he said.
O'Coineen was on the high seas for 13 days, during which time it seems that neither sleep nor fine dining were on the agenda.
"Your sleep patterns change, you develop an ability to sense that the boat is moving differently even when you are asleep.
"I might grab half an hour of sleep, then get up for half an hour and check things," he said.
O'Coineen survived on tinned dehydrated foods, similar to those consumed on the International Space Station.
"It was porridge and raisins for breakfast and chicken or beans for lunch and dinner.
"I've a pretty hardy stomach so it wasn't a problem for me," he said.
O’Coineen and his yacht Currency House Kilcullen have now qualified for the 2016-7 Vendée Globe, but O’Coineen says he hasn’t made up his mind if he is doing the famous singlehanded non-stop around the world race.
“I am taking it in stages and this is the first stage. It's nice to know it is an option.”
And what of pirates?
"No sign of any pirates actually.
"The thought of them was quite far down my list of risks," he laughed.