Help is expected to reach a solo yachtsman stranded in remote waters off the Australian coast later today, 24 hours after an international rescue mission was launched.
Abhilash Tomy, an Indian naval officer, was competing in the round-the-world Golden Globe race, which prevents the use of modern technology, when his 10-metre (33-foot) Thuriya sailing yacht was thrown off course in the Indian Ocean as a result of bad weather.
Reports in Australia suggest Tomy’s yacht broke when it rolled during a storm, and he is understood to have suffered a serious back injury – he sent a satellite text message to race organisers that read: “Can’t walk. Might need stretcher.”
Tomy later sent a second message, adding “Can move toes. Feel numb. Can’t eat or drink. Tough 2 [sic] reach grab bag.”
Race organisers have explained that the solo sailor was “incapacitated on his bunk inside his boat… as far from help as you can possibly be.” It is understood that he is situated around 1,900 nautical miles west of Perth.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has confirmed that help was getting closer to Tomy. Alan Lloyd, search and rescue operations manager, said, "The French research vessel Osiris will arrive in the location of Tomy's vessel at approximately mid-afternoon Canberra time, probably about 2:00pm West Australian time."
Phil Gaden, AMSA search and rescue co-ordinator, added that those on board Osiris will have a difficult job in deciding the best course of action upon arrival to the stricken yacht.
He noted, "If they can recover Tomy on board, they will go to Île Amsterdam, which is about 50 nautical miles (100 kilometres) north of their location. It may take them a significant amount of time to get on board the yacht, noting the damage … It will also take them time to make an assessment of how they can best extract Tomy from the yacht."
AMSA is overseeing the multi-national search and rescue mission, which also involves aircraft and vessels from the Australian Defence Force and the Indian Armed Forces.
Lloyd said there were concerns Tomy had suffered a spinal injury, which would be assessed when Osiris arrived on the scene.
“We then have to undertake a medical assessment of Tomy … depending upon that medical assessment, we will either remove him from the yacht or tow the yacht, most likely to Île Amsterdam,” he said.
Lloyd acknowledged that the plans meant the rescue operation would take a number of days, with the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMS Ballarat also on its way to the area – but it is not expected to arrive until Wednesday.
Tomy was in third place in the Golden Globe race prior to the storm.