Two Golden Globe Race Entrants are Rolled and Dismasted in Powerful Southern Ocean Storm – one Endures Life-Threatening Injuries as the Other Hurries to his Aide

Anyone who has followed globe racing – whether it be the Volvo Ocean Race, Vendee Globe or another, knows the unrelenting power of the Southern Ocean. Also known as the ‘roaring forties’ the Southern Ocean may not be listed on a map or globe, but it is one of the loneliest places on Earth. Where the Indian Ocean meets the continent of Antarctica brews some of the nastiest storms Mother Nature can summon.

Back to back storms forming and barrelling down on nearly every one of the ten remaining skippers of the 2018 Golden Globe Race (GGR) caused great alarm at Race HQ. Famous Aussie skipper and GGR founder and CEO Don McIntyre posted an in-depth synopsis of the weather systems. He also alerted all skippers of and advised the mid-pack to head South to avoid the worst of the storm and the rear pack to head North to avoid the worst of the second storm. All skippers heeded the warnings, but unfortunate events still befell those brave solo-circumnavigators.

No Escape

Each skipper displayed great efforts to steer clear from the worst of the storm, but the seas proved too great for several. Number 68, Mark Slats sailed through the eye of the storm and reported 50-knot winds drop to calm conditions. His boat, The Ohpen Maverick was knocked down multiple times during the storm. In one instance, waves smashed the cabin doors open, causing a flood and electrical fire which he quickly extinguished.

Southern Ocean storm Sat Image: Indian Meteorological Department
Southern Ocean storm Sat Image: Indian Meteorological Department

A more grim fate befell number 32, Gregor McGuckin and Number 5, Abhilash Tomy. Just hours apart, both skippers reported being rolled 360° causing a full dismasting for both boats. While McGuckin reported he was okay, Tomy – a Commander for the Indian Navy suffered a severe back injury and was unable to leave his bunk. Race HQ was quick to produce a full Press Release of the scenario that was unfolding for their more than 30k concerned social media followers.

Code Red Alert

A Code Red Alert was immediately issued after learning of Commander Tomy’s condition. The Australian Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra took charge to coordinate a rescue effort involving many agencies including the Australian Defense Department and Indian Navy. Assets from the Australian and Indian navies were mobilized and redirected to the scene, some 1,800 miles away from Perth, Australia.

Although many systems were damaged aboard Tomy’s sailing yacht Thuriya’s EPIRB was able to function once activated by the disabled skipper. Once in range, both countries deployed scout aircraft to photograph the waters over Tomy’s specific location.

Hanley Energy Endurance under Jury Rig_Photo Credit-Australian Maritime Safety Authority
Hanley Energy Endurance under Jury Rig. Photo: Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Ninety miles to the SE of Thuriya‘s position was McGuckin’s Hanley Energy Endurance. The skipper was working frantically to secure his boat after the rollover and assemble a jury rig. His engine would turn over but could not stay running – tainted diesel fuel is thought to be the culprit. Under jury rig, McGuckin was only making 2-3 knots progress towards Tomy’s position.

The rescue coordination efforts had located the French fisheries patrol vessel OSIRIS and asked it to divert to the aide of Tomy. Race HQ issued press releases daily to recap followers of the coordinated rescue efforts.

A Difficult Decision

Thuriya rescue_Photo Credit-Australian Maritime Safety Authority
Abhilash Tomy rescue aboard ‘Thuriya’. Photo: Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Once the OSIRIS was within range of Thuriya, crews were dispatched via tenders to carefully remove Tomy on a stretcher. The extraction was successful and Tomy was conscious and speaking with the rescue personnel. At this point, McGuckin was still 30 miles away from the scene and was faced with a tough decision. Either he could carry on under jury rig through the Southern Ocean to the nearest cape which was over 1800 miles away, or he could request a rescue while the resources were deployed nearby.

Rescue meant abandoning his yacht and the race. But, carrying on could spell treacherous scenarios and future rescue efforts needed. McGuckin, in coordination with his team manager, made the difficult decision to abandon his race boat and accept rescue from the OSIRIS. After his rescue, GGR HQ assembled a tribute to McGuckin and his incredible 82 days at sea during the race:

One for the Books

The rescue coordination efforts by multiple agencies have seen praise from race followers, fellow skippers plus governments and agencies from around the globe.

President of India on Twitter

Relieved Indian Navy Commander @abhilashtomy has been rescued from his location in the southern Indian Ocean. Appreciate our French and Australian friends for being part of the maritime effort to reach and assist this brave voyager. I wish him a speedy recovery #PresidentKovind

OSIRIS transported both skippers to Amsterdam Island located in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The island has one doctor and a well-equipped medical facility including capabilities for X-Ray and Ultrasound. Tomy’s condition improved greatly after receiving medical treatment. According to a GGR press release, he is able to now stand and eat foods.

Both skippers will be airlifted from the island and returned to mainland aboard naval ships. McGuckin will be returned to the city of Fremantle on the Western coast of Australia outside of Perth via the HMAS Ballarat. Commander Tomy will be transported back to India aboard the Indian Navy Frigate INS Satpura where he will receive further medical treatment.

What About the Yachts?

Thuriya secured and abandoned. Photo: Australian Maritime Safety Authority
Thuriya secured and abandoned. Photo: Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Once both skippers were rescued, everyone’s attention turned from the safety of the sailors to the yacht’s remnants. GGR released a statement on maritime law and the scuttling of race yachts. Furthermore, McGuckin’s team manager reported that the Hanley Energy Endurance would not be scuttled. Before disembarking, McGuckin secured all items on deck and below and activated the AIS beacon. The AIS will relay the yacht’s position to other vessels nearby allowing them to safely maneuver around the disabled boat. The AIS is powered by solar so it should operate indefinitely. The yachts fate is now in the hands of the Southern Ocean and Mother Nature.

On the other hand, the Indian Navy has plans to salvage Thuriya. Tomy’s race manager, Capt. Dilip Donde announced plans to salvage the yacht, left drifting in the Indian Ocean. The plan is for the Indian Navy to tow Thuriya to St. Paul’s Island some 40 miles north, and leave a crew to make repairs and sail her to land. We greatly look forward to a full recovery for both Commander Tomy and Thuriya.