Australian army called in to rescue stranded Golden Globe sailor

JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER  AFP  Getty Images

JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER AFP Getty Images

Since Tomy commenced his latest circumnavigation effort, his Twitter handle has been posting routine updates about his adventure and experiences.

The Australian Defence Force has joined the urgent rescue mission to find a seriously injured solo Indian sailor who's sent desperate distress messages from his stricken vessel in the southern Indian Ocean.

Tomy's 36-foot boat, Thuriya, was one of several hit by 80 miles per hour winds and 46-foot seas midway across the South Indian Ocean on Friday, 82 days into the race, organizers said.

A severely injured Indian solo sailor is waiting to be rescued almost 3,300km from the Australian coast. "CANNOT GET UP", and then was unheard from for almost 15 hours.

He had messaged a day earlier, saying: "ACTIVATED EPIRB".

"Tomy, in his last message through satellite phone, has indicated that he is safe on the boat, however, [he] is immobile due to back injury".

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"Continuous watch over the boat is being maintained by the Indian Navy and RAAF aircraft till rescue is completed", a Navy spokesperson in Mumbai said, adding that the Indian Naval Defence Attaché in Australia was camping at the regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC).

Commander Abhilash Tomy is sailing aboard an indigenously built sailing vessel, SV Thuraya, which overturned and dismasted during stormy weather.

His rescue communications devices are running out of charge and he is barely responding to texts. Irish sailor Gregor McGuckin, whose boat was also badly damaged in the storm, is also not very far from the officer. Indian Navy is doing their best as they always have.

A French fishing vessel is also in the area, but could take several days to reach the scene.

Rear Admiral Jonathan Dallas Mead, commander of the Australian fleet, has said it would take a few days to reach Tomy's location in such risky conditions.

The aircraft would fly back after three to four hours and Tomy can only be rescued by naval ships, he said. McGuckin could reach Tomy on Monday.

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Competitors started from France on 1 July; seven boats have so far withdrawn from the race.

In line with the 1968 race, skippers must navigate using paper charts and the stars, with no watermaker aboard.

'The fact that Abhilash has been unable to make contact via text or sat phone, nor set off his emergency beacon is unusual and suggests that he remains incapacitated. They are also banned from using modern technology such as Global Positioning System and mobile phones.

Race organizers also track the boats via Global Positioning System - though sailors can not see the data. Tomy's "Thuriya" is a replica of 1968 victor Robin Knox-Johnston's 32-foot wooden sailboat.

Entrants must sail yachts similar to that which was used by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston during the historic 1968/9 world-first solo non-stop circumnavigation.

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