Irish sailor who tried to rescue competitor arrives home to rapturous welcome
Abhilash Tomy had been badly injured and confined to his bunk after his boat capsized and help was days away.
An Irish sailor hailed a hero for trying to rescue an injured fellow competitor in a round-the-world race has arrived home to a rapturous welcome.
Family and friends gathered at Dublin Airport to greet Gregor McGuckin, 32, after his Indian Ocean ordeal.
His own boat had been crippled by massive waves but he courageously limped for miles without his main mast across one of the most remote places in the world to aid another sailor.
Abhilash Tomy, 39, from India, had been badly injured and confined to his bunk after his boat capsized. Help was days away.
Mr McGuckin recalled: “When this storm hit, we were not just in the worst place at the wrong time, we were in the worst possible place to be at the wrong time as well.”
He added: “We were in the most remote part of the Indian Ocean, I knew the chances of anybody being close by were slim to none.”
The Dubliner’s yacht, the Hanley Energy Endurance, rolled over twice and lost its mast in a storm almost 2,000 miles south west of Perth in western Australia.
Despite the extensive damage to his boat, Mr McGuckin fashioned an ad hoc mast and battled rough seas for four further days in a bid to reach his fellow sailor, Indian naval commander Mr Tomy, who had suffered a serious back injury.
Mr McGuckin was about 90-100 miles away from Mr Tomy and travelling at around 5mph, at best.
A French fisheries patrol boat reached Mr Tomy first. It then rescued Mr McGuckin before taking both men to the isolated Amsterdam Island for treatment.
Both men had been competing in the Golden Globe Race when their masts were destroyed in the conditions.
Mr McGuckin recounted the event.
“I stuck my head out and I just saw this huge wave just starting to break.
“It was two waves colliding and it just created this huge mountain, basically, and I managed to get in and slam the hatch shut in time.”
His boat weighed 10 tonnes but was being hurled around by the power of the waves.
Mr McGuckin said: “The whole boat got thrown sideways and everything went dark and I was lying on the roof and stuff lying everywhere.”
Despite his predicament, when he heard about his fellow competitor’s plight he attempted to help as quickly as possible.
“It was pretty frustrating because the wind died quite quickly after the storm.
“The sea state was still massive and I only had two tiny sails up.
“It needed quite a lot of wind just to keep those sails filled, to keep the boat from getting knocked about by the sea state.
“So that was really frustrating, and I had no auto-pilot because that had gotten crushed when the main mast got taken down so I had to hand-steer a lot.
“I also tried to get the engine working and typically enough that would not work.
“So it was a challenging bit of time.”
Mr McGuckin, who was attempting to be the first Irishman to sail around the world solo non-stop, subsequently spent a number of weeks in Australia recovering.
Dennis Nordon, the managing director of Mr McGuckin’s main sponsor Hanley Energy, also attended the homecoming event.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have Gregor home safely,” he said.
“All of us here are indescribably proud of his bravery in unimaginably tough circumstances, and we are looking forward to continuing to support his endeavours.”