An RNLI lifeboat and helicopter had called off their hunt for Mr Tabarly - one of the world's most experienced solo sailors - after he had been missing for 12 hours in moderate seas, 35 miles from the Pembrokeshire coast. He was not wearing a lifejacket. Most people would die from exposure in four hours in such conditions.
But after an offer of an Atlantique aircraft from L'Orient in France, an RAF aircraft was made available for a last-ditch attempt to save his life. Both planes were scanning the seas until dusk last night and were expected to try again today.
Mr Tabarly, 66, from Brittany, won numerous races and was awarded the Legion d'honneur. He gained fame after triumphing in a transatlantic solo race from Plymouth to Newport in 27 days in 1964.
He had been skippering the Pen Duick, a 40-foot craft. It is thought the yacht was sailing between Newlyn and Belfast. The crew were changing sail at about midnight when he fell overboard. The remaining crew, three men and a woman - who speak little or no English - sent up a flare and threw a lifebuoy overboard.Reuse content