Last phone call with Abhilash Tomy before suffering spine injury at sea

International rescue operation underway to help injured sailor stranded over 2,000 miles off coast of Australia

Nearest boat may take two days to reach him

Harry Cockburn
Sunday 23 September 2018 16:15
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An international rescue operation is underway to help an injured sailor stranded in the Indian Ocean.

Abhilash Tomy, a 39-year-old Indian Navy commander, was competing in the round-the-world Golden Globe Race when a storm rolled his boat, snapping its main mast off and leaving him incapacitated with what he described as a “serious back injury”, in a message asking for help.

He is now “incapacitated on his bunk inside his boat” some 3,704 kilometres (2,300 miles) off Western Australia, organisers said.

He was able to send a text message via a handheld satellite unit, but his main satellite phone was damaged, and his injury meant he was unable to reach a second satellite phone and handheld VHF radio on the boat, AFP reports.

The position of the yacht is so remote that the nearest vessel in a position to help – a French fisheries patrol boat – will only be able to reach the stricken vessel by Monday or Tuesday.

In his last spoken communication with race organisers they discussed the approaching storm and it was agreed he would be able to ride it out.

“There’s nothing there you can’t handle”, an official can be heard saying, “but we just wanted to tell you about this one.”

Wind-speed was forecast to reach 50 knots, with stronger gusts.

The Indian Navy commander is in his bunk aboard his yacht after sustaining 'severe back injuries' during a storm which snapped the boat's mast

Two military aircraft, one from India and another from Australia, flew over the stricken boat on Sunday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said.

Crews could see the boat had lost its mast but were unable to obtain any further information on Commander Tomy’s condition.

On Sunday the Australian Defence Force said it would also assist in the rescue, with the frigate HMAS Ballarat sailing from Perth towards the yacht.

Golden Globe Race competitors undertake a non-stop 30,000-mile single-handed circumnavigation of the globe using the sailing technology of the late 1960s.

The race’s first winner was Robin Knox-Johnston in 1968 who won in his boat Suhaili.

Commander Tomy’s vessel is a replica of Suhaili – a 32-foot two-masted Bermudan ketch.

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