SIX men are lucky to be alive after their boat sank in rough seas off the coast of Port Campbell on Friday night.
The men — including three from Port Fairy — were on board the yacht Inception when it began taking on water about seven nautical miles from Port Campbell during an ocean race from Queenscliff to Port Fairy.
After spending a cold and terrifying two-and-a-half hours in the water, they were rescued shortly after midnight by the crew of Trybooking.com, another yacht competing in the race.
Inception’s owner Jeff Dusting, 42, of Sandringham, recalled the ordeal on Saturday from his hospital bed in Warrnambool.
“When the storm came through we were in survival mode,” Mr Dusting said.
“We just had a small sail up and we were waiting for the storm to pass.
“When the wind died down I thought I’d take the chance to take a little nap and when I woke up 30 minutes later I noticed the bow was low in the water.
“About 20 or 30 minutes later the boat had sunk.
“The pumps were working and we were looking at ways to get the water out (but) it wasn’t pumping fast enough.
“Once we realised we couldn’t get into the cabins, we started inflating our lifejackets.
“The boat sort of sank beneath us.
“The next thing we knew it was on the bottom of the ocean.
“One of the guys jumped in without his lifejacket inflated so there was a bit of panic until we got that inflated.”
The men tied themselves together and tried to huddle together for warmth as the swell and waves battered them and pushed them under.
“Everyone started retreating into themselves. One of the guys was really struggling. He was (saying) things like ‘I’m ready to give up’.
“I kept talking to him.
“By then we could see the light of the rescue boat and that got our spirits up, but the boat seemed to be going around and around us because they couldn’t find us.
“There were nine-metre swells and we only had our heads above water.
“From our perspective there was a bright light only 100 metres away but they couldn’t see us.
“We started to get a bit jaded because we thought they were going away from us.
“Some of the guys were calling out.”
An hour after first spotting the light of Trybooking.com, the six men were finally plucked from the ocean and Mr Dusting said he was eternally thankful.
“I’m very grateful to the guys that rescued us,” he said.
“For them it was pretty rough seas.
“It would have been easy for them not to have the radio on.
“When they dragged me on (Trybooking.com) it was good to be on something solid.
“And though it was covered in water it felt nice and dry.
“It’s the kind of thing you read about — not the kind of thing you’re in.”
On board Inception with Mr Dusting were his father Ken, Doug Abbott and Chris Morris, all of Port Fairy, along with Glenn Armistead and Greg Cameron of Melbourne.
The crew of Trybooking.com brought them to Port Fairy around 10am yesterday and the six men were taken to Warrnambool Base Hospital.
Mr Dusting said he had competed in last year’s Queenscliff-Port Fairy race and endured rough weather then.
“Before we started, someone said ‘let’s hope it’s not as bad as last year’,” he laughed.
Mr Dusting said he was still processing the night’s events but added that he would definitely continue sailing — as soon as he could get another boat.
“I spent a lot of time on the boat. I had a lot of personal stuff on the boat, sometimes I’d work on it,” he said.
None of the crew members suffered serious injuries but were recovering from exposure to the extremely cold conditions.