Dramatic rescue after Derry clipper fall

Published Monday, 31 March 2014
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A crew member has been left suffering from shock and hypothermia after falling overboard from the Derry~Londonderry~Doire yacht competing in the Clipper Round the World Race.

Dramatic rescue after Derry clipper fall
The moment a Derry~Londonderry~Doire crew member was dramatically rescued. (© Clipper Ventures)

Andrew Taylor, 46 and from London, went over the side of the yacht during rough weather in the early hours of Monday morning as the race headed from Qingdao in China to San Francisco, USA.

"I didn't know if you were looking for me or not," he told his rescuers, realising he was lucky to be alive after his terrifying ordeal.

"I didn't know if you'd seen me; I couldn't hear anything.

"Then I saw someone up the mast and initially I thought it was a good thing because you were looking for me, and then I realised it might be a bad thing because it meant you didn't know where I was."

An hour-and-a-half is a very long time to be in the water in these conditions.

Justin Taylor, race director

The incident happened just before 12.45am, when Andrew and the yacht's professional skipper - Sean McCarter from Derry - were working on a sail change.

It fell to Sean to return to the helm, stop the yacht and initiate the man overboard procedure.

"In these conditions, a man overboard is swept away from the boat very quickly and visual contact can be lost in the swell," race director Justin Taylor explained.

"We have a well-rehearsed procedure to mark the position, stop racing and engage the engine to search for and recover the crew member as quickly as possible."

Andrew wasn't sighted until nearly 2am and was recovered nearly 20 minutes later.

A competing team, OneDLL, responded to the mayday call and diverted course to offer their assistance, while Falmouth and US Coast Guard services were also contacted.

Both yachts have since resumed racing, with Andrew having been taken below decks of the Derry~Londonderry~Doire for treatment by the on-board medic.

His condition is being closely monitored, but he is said to be in relatively good spirits and talking with fellow crew members.

Nearly 4,000 people have taken part in the Clipper Race in its 18-year history and this is only the fourth time that someone has had to be rescued from the water.

In each of the other three cases, the crew members were rescued within minutes.

Andrew's survival has been put down to a combination of his sea survival training and seven months at sea, as well as wearing a life jacket and dry suit - and the rescue efforts of his crew.

"The sea can be a harsh environment and we rehearse every eventuality, including a man overboard," race founder and chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said.

It is always a concern when we have a major incident and we will want to analyse the circumstances in detail to see if there is anything we need to learn or review as a result.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, race founder

Sir Robin added: "The MOB procedures were put into practice flawlessly by the crew in difficult conditions.

"It is a tribute to their training and determination that Andrew was successfully recovered."

The 12-strong fleet of 70ft ocean racing yachts left London on 1 September 2013 and they are currently on Day 14 in the 10th of 16 stages.

The first boats are expected to finish under San Francisco's iconic Golden gate bridge on 11 April.

© UTV News
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