Belfast Telegraph

Londonderry-Derry-Doire Clipper yacht crew hailed as heroes for saving shipmate from sea

By Donna Deeney

The skipper of the Londonderry-Derry-Doire Clipper yacht who spearheaded the rescue of one of his crew after he fell overboard into the Pacific Ocean believes the man survived because the rest of the crew did not panic.

Andrew Taylor (46) was lost from view for almost two hours after he went overboard from the vessel while adjusting its sails during strong winds on Sunday.

Skipper Sean McCarter, who is from Derry, raised the alarm immediately Mr Taylor went into the water and turned the yacht back to search for him.

The skipper said a simple oversight could have ended in tragedy but for the calm and steady way the whole crew handled the situation.

"We needed a pair of pliers and Andrew was preparing to go back when we managed to free the offending hank (sail clip) and continue on with our work," he explained.

"Suddenly the boat leaned heavily to leeward and I watched Andrew in slow motion slide out over the top of the guard rail and into the sea.

"Andrew hadn't been clipped on. We can only guess that somewhere between going to get the pliers then not needing them, he got distracted and forgot to clip on again.

"The crew reacted perfectly; nobody panicked, everyone went through the procedures that we practise religiously in Clipper Race training.

"The MOB (man overboard) button was pressed giving us the position on the electronic chart plotter, the engine was started, boat checked for ropes in the water and staysail dropped all within minutes.

"I asked for a heading to the casualty and got the reply I dreaded most: 'We've lost visual'. All of a sudden the North Pacific became a very big place.

"The waves were the size of bungalows and the wind was whipping up spray off the crests, with streams of foam running down our faces.

"We continued our search going further and further downwind of the MOB position and short-tacking our way up the probable drift line, but to no avail.

"Andrew had been in the 11-degree water over an hour at this stage. He was wearing a dry-suit but would still be going hypothermic at this point.

"Although no one was saying it, everyone was starting to fear the worst."

Thankfully, the worst didn't happen and Andrew was spotted, much to the relief of Sean and the rest of the crew.

From his log, the skipper added: "It took another 30 seconds before we could see him at about 200 metres in the mountainous seas.

"At first I had a huge sense of relief. This was quickly followed by thoughts of Andrew's condition; what if he was unconscious or worse?

"As we approached, Andrew began waving his arms and shouting."

Mr Taylor is currently resting below deck on the Clipper, recovering from his ordeal under the care of fellow crew member and paramedic Susie Redhouse.

BACKGROUND

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race was conceived in 1995 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and gives paying amateur crew members the chance to sail around the world.

Every two years crew members can either sign up for the whole race, or one or more legs under qualified skippers who lead each team.

Derry City Council sponsored a yacht for the first time in 2012.

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