UK & World News
Cruise Ship Captain Makes 53-Hour Diversion
The British captain of a cruise ship which was diverted 1800km to rescue a solo yachtsman has described the dramatic moment he was hauled safely on board to the cheers of passengers.
After three days in mountainous seas on a life raft in the Southern Ocean, 63-year-old round-the-world sailor Alain Delord was saved by the Orion, 500 nautical miles southwest of Hobart, Tasmania, late on Sunday.
The Orion cruise ship had been on a tour of the Antarctic.
Captain Mike Taylor said the vessel's 100 passengers who were on a once-in-a-lifetime trip had at first been "massively disappointed" to be diverted.
"But there was a cheer you could hear right over the ship when we pulled him in through the door," Captain Taylor told ABC radio.
He said his ship was about 680 miles south of Mr Delord when contacted by Australia's Rescue Co-ordination Centre in the Australian capital, Canberra.
"It took us a full 53 hours to get from where we were to him," the Brit said.
Cpt Taylor spoke of huge swells and strong winds that made for conditions as extreme as any he had experienced.
"It was unbelievable how difficult he was to see," Cpt Taylor said, describing how the orange raft would bob up atop a mighty wave and then disappear again.
Mr Delord, who set off in early October, abandoned his yacht Tchouk Tchouk Nougat on Friday after the mast smashed and the hull was damaged too far from land for a helicopter to reach him.
He was air-dropped food, water, communications equipment and a safety suit on Saturday, and had stayed in regular contact with coastguards.
Amid fears he would have to spend a third night at sea, Orion reached him before sunset.
Cpt Taylor told ABC Mr Delord was in better shape than might have been expected.
"He's very happy to be here, I can tell you that.
"I only saw him last night when he was under the doctor's care. He was a little bit subdued. I guess he's been in fear of his life for two or three days so probably the adrenalin has now left his system so he's like a limp rag.
"But he was in surprisingly good condition ... 63-years-old, three months on a yacht, three days in a raft.
"He was able to stand and he was able to clear the canopy on his raft to help us with the rescue so he's in good shape."
The sailor has been accommodated in one of the ship's five-star suites and has been tucking into lamb shanks and a glass of red wine.
Orion expedition leader Don McIntyre said in a Facebook statement that a wave flooded part of the ship when crews initially opened a side door.
"We shut the side door fast ... then the captain repositioned and gave the OK to open again," he said.
"I was amazed to see the raft just 20 metres from us, sitting in calm water in the lee of the ship with Alain waving."
Mr McIntyre gave the go-ahead for a launch to drop into the water and intercept the life raft.
The Orion, now en route for Hobart, Tasmania, was 11 days into an 18-day cruise when diverted.
Mr Delord, an experienced solo yachtsman, was reportedly following the route of the Vendee Globe round-the-world ocean race.
The Australian navy famously rescued Frenchman Thierry Dubois and Briton Tony Bullimore after several days adrift in the Southern Ocean during the 1996/97 edition of the Vendee Globe.