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Taiwanese Fishing Vessel Rescues Sailor in Severe S. Atlantic Storm

sailing vessel puffin
Puffin in calmer conditions (Ian Herbert Jones)

Published Apr 12, 2023 5:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Taiwanese fishing vessel has rescued a sailor who got caught in a severe storm in the Golden Globe single-handed ocean race, one of the premier events of offshore racing. 

Yachtsman Ian Herbert Jones contacted the Golden Globe Race coordination office by satphone at 1540 UTC on Monday, and he advised the race organizers that he was in trouble. At a position about 450 nm to the north of South Georgia, in the middle of the South Atlantic, Jones' yacht Puffin was running on bare poles and attempting to ride out a severe storm. He was trying to hand-steer the yacht downwind in 50-knot winds and confused seas. The conditions were so bad that he could not launch his drogue, and he had twice been washed out of the cockpit by waves, according to the organizers. With difficulty maintaining heading, Puffin risked getting rolled by the waves. 

The satcom call failed, so as a precautionary measure, Jones activated his EPIRB. The race's crisis team got in touch with MRCC Argentina, the nearest SAR authority, and confirmed that the EPIRB position was received. 

At 1725 UTC, Jones activated the distress alert button on his YB3 satcom unit, signifying a more serious development. Jones managed to get a text message out at 1842, and reported that the boat had been rolled and dismasted. He had injured his back and received a cut on his head as the yacht rolled over. The rig was still hanging over the side, where it posed a risk to hull integrity, and there was flooding inside the yacht. 

Luckily, a Taiwanese lift-netter - the Zi Da Wang - was located nearby. The fishing vessel diverted from its commercial operations and transited to meet up with the disabled Puffin, arriving at about 1740 UTC on Tuesday. The crew of the Zi Da Wang made a lee for the Puffin to come alongside, then retrieved Jones from the stricken yacht. The Zi Da Wang is believed to be headed to Cape Town, where it will deliver the injured sailor to shore for medical treatment. 

The Puffin, unfortunately had to be scuttled as a hazard to navigation. 

"The GGR wish to thank the SAR Puerto Belgrano in Argentina and the MRCC Taiwan for an exemplary international coordination of Ian’s rescue, as well as the shipowner, masters and crew of the F/V Zi Da Wang and the F/V Fa Da Cai and Yuh Sheng N°1," said the race organizers in a statement.