Hero's welcome for saved sailor back on dry land

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The Independent Online
Tony Bullimore, the British yachtsman rescued in the Southern Ocean last Thursday, arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia, early today to a hero's welcome.

In a ceremony beamed around Australia live on television, Mr Bullimore receivedthe cheers of thousands of well-wishers on the quayside and a navy band playing "It's a Wonderful World".

The Adelaide docked soon after 8am Australian time after completing a seven-day voyage from 1,500 miles south-west of Perth to rescue Mr Bullimore and Thierry Dubois, 29, a French sailor, after their yachts capsized in a gale in the Southern Ocean.

After Australian government and naval officials went on board to greet the sailors, Mr Bullimore emerged to roaring cheers from a crowd of more than 5,000. As the crowd gave him a rousing three cheers, the Briton hugged Dubois and, turning to point to the ship, said: "I would not be here if it was not for these people." He insisted on hobbling down the gangplank in the glorious sunshine to acknowledge the welcome, despite doctors' orders to stay off his feet, which were damaged during his four- day ordeal trapped under his upturned yacht in freezing waters.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Bullimore said, "I couldn't get any further down and started to allocate a last few hours of `what am I going to think about?'. At the same time a little bit of the old professionalism came through - `keep going, don't give up'. Then all of a sudden I heard the sound of an aircraft." Thanking the crew, he said, "I have been given another chance. It has been absolutely astonishing. I am slightly emotional over this," he said, stretching out his arms in a gesture of thanks to the rescue services.

Bullimore looked relaxed and smiling and was wearing a grey and navy overall and a blue cap. His fingers, which were hurt when the boat capsized, were heavily bandaged.

t The search for the fourth casualty of the Vendee Globe singlehanded round-the-world race, the French Canadian Gerry Roufs, was abandoned yesterday, writes Stuart Alexander.He has not been picked up by satellite position logging system since last Tuesday.