Australian authorities are coordinating the rescue of a solo round-the-world yachtsman who has become stranded in seas south-west of Tasmania.
On Friday night, Alain Deloard had abandoned his damaged yacht and was in a life raft, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority confirmed on Saturday morning.
A civilian aircraft, the Dornier, had dropped supplies including a raft to the veteran sailor and was due to return to the scene on Saturday, along with two other aircraft, to re-establish communications with him. A cruise liner in the Southern Ocean has diverted its course for Antarctica to assist in the rescue.
On Friday, the MV Orion received the request from AMSA to respond to an emergency positioning beacon approximately 380 nautical miles south of Hobart.
The Orion is due to reach the beacon on Sunday evening.
“There has been no further communication with the yacht since the emergency beacon was activated,” said Orion's expedition leader Don McIntyre. “From that it appears he may have sent the call after his yacht was dismasted, so there are serious concerns for his safety.
The beacon is registered to Tchouk Tchouk Noguat, a 10.6-metre fiberglass yacht being skippered by the 63-year-old Deloard, who has 17 trans-Atlantic voyages under his belt.
Deloard, who has been at sea for several months, uploaded his last blog on his website on January 17 while plotting a course through severe winds measuring 40 knots and 10 metre seas. “The winds will continue to turn towards the west and will get stronger,” Deloard wrote. “The wind has not reached its limited forecast.”
When it received the distress call, the Orion was en route from the coast of East Antarctica to Macquarie Island.
The ship is carrying 91 passengers, many of them Australians, who despite missing out on some of their expedition were happy to assist with the rescue effort.
“I've been involved with volunteer marine rescue in Queensland and the training that you get makes you fully understand the importance of safety of life at sea,” said Ross Evans. “We are disappointed we are not going to Macquarie [Island] but human life is much more important.”
Doug Lambert, of Perth, agreed: “It's a no-brainer as afar as I am concerned. There is a guy in the water. It's a matter of human life – a moral issue – not just an issue of the law of the sea.”