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Ocean drama sailor back on dry land

A man thrown overboard in the remote reaches of the Pacific Ocean is back on dry land after his yacht team completed the latest stage in a round-the-world race.

Andrew Taylor, from London, spent an hour and a half alone in the ocean 2,500 miles from land after he fell into the sea during a storm in the early hours of March 31.

The 46-year-old crewman was hit by the rudder of the 70ft racing yacht Derry-Londonderry-Doire as it went past him, injuring his leg.

Despite being battered by huge waves, rain, strong winds and hailstones, his fellow yachtsmen tracked him down and safely rescued him from the cold waters.

Mr Taylor's ordeal left him suffering from hypothermia and severe shock, but at 9.28pm yesterday he was with his crew as they sailed under San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge to complete the 10th stage of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in sixth place .

Mr Taylor was taken straight to the city's Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, where doctors gave him the good news that his leg was not broken, just deeply bruised.

A surgeon will assess his leg on Monday to determine whether he can continue with the final six stages of the 40,000-mile race, the longest in the world.

Speaking after he landed, Mr Taylor said : " I'm under no illusion that I am a very lucky man. I'm very happy to be here in San Francisco - I need to say thank you to a lot of these guys behind me for the work that they put in for the search and rescue operation.

" I also need to thank Olly Cotterell, the skipper of OneDLL, and the crew of OneDLL who suspended racing to come and assist in the search operation immediately."

Mr Taylor's yacht was about halfway through the 5,600-mile leg across the Pacific, from Qingdao, China, to San Francisco when the accident happened.

He was trying to change a head sail with Irish skipper Sean McCarter when the boat rolled violently and he was thrown into the water, despite being clipped on.

Re counting the terrifying moments he spent alone in the sea, he said: "It was horrific, the storm in particular. It was hard for these guys on the boat, it made the search harder, but the storm treated me very badly. I felt like it was the sea not wanting me in the sea, I think - it wanted to get rid of me and I took that as a good thing."

He added: "I kept myself really busy whilst I was in the water. There was a lot for me to do, a lot for me to concentrate on, and what I needed to do to survive.

"The guys on the boat were doing everything they needed to do so it was important I did the same. There were a few times I did wonder if I was going to get back on the boat or not but I'm here and on the boat, many thanks to the crew. It was an epic piece of work to find me."

Despite waters of just 10C-11C (50F-52F) Mr Taylor remained conscious, which Mr McCarter put down to him wearing a dry suit when he fell overboard.

The 32-year-old, a former RNLI volunteer for Loughswilly, Co Donegal who is now based in Mallorca, said the search had been worse than looking for a needle in a haystack.

He said at the time: "As soon as we saw him the initial reaction was a huge relief and then followed quite quickly by we don't have a clue what state he is in, God forbid dead or alive, conscious, unconscious, injured.

"We got round and as soon as he could see the boat out of the corner of his eye we could see him waving his arms and that was another massive relief."

Mr McCarter said the race had been long and difficult, but that morale on board was "pretty good".

"It's always pretty good, obviously with some worrying moments, but the guys dealt with everything incredibly well," he said.

"We took it easy once we got Andrew back on board probably for around 24 hours - I wasn't sure how everyone was feeling or how they would react to getting back onto race mode -but I think it was the best thing for us and once we concentrated on that we went back to normal and since then it's been great.

"We've had a good time and a good race. Unfortunately we fell off the back of the weather that the leaders came in on, which was a bit unfortunate, but we are just so happy to be here."

The Pacific leg is one of the most challenging stages of the Clipper Race, with winds of 70 knots and 10-metre waves testing the endurance of the amateur crews to the limit.

Some of the yachts have not seen any other boats for weeks, and at times the nearest other people were those 300 miles away on the International Space Station.

The fastest yachts completed the stage in just over 24 days, averaging around 230 miles a day. But the punishing conditions took their toll, leading to two medical evacuations.

Race director Justin Taylor said it was a huge relief to see Mr Taylor's yacht come in safely.

He said: " The first half of the race they were doing really well and were one of the fastest boats leading the fleet before the man overboard incident.

"Thankfully Andrew was recovered and the team did a great job. The Pacific leg was a very eventful race right down to the finish, where just 30 miles separated the top three teams after 5,600 miles of ocean racing."

The 11th leg of the race, starting on April 19, will see teams race down to Central America, through the Panama Canal and on to New York via Jamaica.


From Belfast Telegraph