Solo Golden Globe Race sailor Tapio Lehtinen has been rescued from his liferaft and is now onboard the bulk carrier Darya Gayatri
Tapio Lehtinen is safely onboard the Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier Darya Gayatri and is on his way to Rizhao in China [not Singapore as was earlier reported].
The Golden Globe Race skipper, who is reported to be in good spirits, has spent the last 24 hours in his liferaft after his Gaia 36, Asteria sank yesterday morning, 450 miles south east of Port Elizabeth in South Africa.
It is still not known what caused the yacht to sink, although the 64-year-old Finnish skipper reported that she sank stern first, in five minutes. He had enough time to activate his Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) deploy his liferaft, don his survival suit and secure his grab bag,
He was in contact with Race HQ, using the YB3 Tracker-Texting device, which was in his grab bag.
This morning, he messaged that he had slept well overnight in the southern Indian Ocean.
‘A peaceful night under the stars, have slept like in [a] cradle,’ messaged Lehtinen, who added: ‘You can’t get much closer to the ocean, I love it, but this is close enough. Thanks for looking after me.’
Fellow Golden Globe Race sailor, Kirsten Neuschafer was diverted to assist in the rescue, as she was just 95 miles south west of Lehtinen’s last known position.
She reached him just after 0500 UTC today. Conditions at the time were 20 knot south-southeasterly wind and 2-3 metre swell.
Initially the South African skipper could not see Lehtinen’s liferaft in the swell, but they made contact, and by 0805 UTC he was onboard Neuschafer’s Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha.
Speaking following the rescue, Neuschafer said: ‘I caught his raft, he came aboard, the ship came. They made a lee, I approached them. They threw out a line, we caught it, we tied it onto the raft, and he got back into the raft. They pulled him to the ladder, he climbed the ladder and then they pulled the raft onboard the ship.We drank rum together and then we sent him on his merry way. ‘
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Neuschafer helmed through the night, making speeds of up to 8 knots to reach Tapio Lehtinen.
She was regularly updated on weather information as well as Lehtinen’s position and drift by Race HQ in order to maximise routing for the fastest route to him.
Meanwhile, Lehtinen was updated through the night on Neuschafer’s progress.
‘I felt really bad for him. I would not like to spend a night in a raft in the southern Indian Ocean. I tried to get there as quickly as I could. If I always sailed that quickly, I would be with Simon [Curwen] right now.’
Neuschafer has logged her engine hours and resealed her grab bag, and is now back in the race. Race HQ has said she will be compensated for the time lost during the rescue operation.
‘I am full of adrenalin, been up all night helming, I am going to set a nice steady course, have some breakfast and then hit the sack,’ added Neuschafer, who has plenty of Southern Ocean sailing experienced, having worked with Skip Novak onboard his Pelagic Australis, preparing and sailing the boat to South Georgia, The Antarctic Peninsula, Patagonia and the Falkland Islands.
The rescue operation was coordinated by MRCC Cape Town.
Tapio Lehtinen is one of the most experienced sailors to take part in the 2022 Golden Globe Race.
He previously circumnavigated singlehanded on board his 1965 Gaia 36 in the 2018 edition of the race, coming fifth. Problems with antifouling meant he wasn’t as competitive as he had planned due to the growth of gooseneck barnacles over the yacht’s hull, and it took him 322 days to finish the race.
A former Commodore of the Helsingfors Segelsällskap (HSS) Yacht Club, Lehtinen has also circumnavigated with crew onboard the 1981-82 Whitbread Round the World Race boat, Skopbank Finland, a C&C Baltic 51 skippered by Kenneth Gahmberg. He was 23, and a watch captain during the race.
Lehtinen is leading his own team, Tapio Lehtinen Sailing in the 2023 Ocean Globe Race, a retro Whitbread Race, to mark the 50th anniversary of the original 1973 Whitbread.
The team of young Finnish sailors will be racing onboard the Swan 55, Galiana.
The race has been founded by Golden Globe Race chairman, Don McIntyre.
A feature on Galiana and Tapio Lehtinen Sailing will be published in the January 2023 issue of Yachting Monthly, out on the 8 December 2022.
Current positions of the Golden Globe Race 2022 skippers on 19 November 2022 at 0900 UTC
Simon Curwen, (UK), Biscay 36, Clara
Abhilash Tomy, (India), Rustler 36, Bayanat
Kirsten Neuschafer, (South Africa), Cape George 36 cutter, Minnehaha
Michael Guggenberger, (Austria), Biscay 36, Nuri
Jeremy Bagshaw, (South Africa), OE32, Olleanna
Elliot Smith, (USA), Gale Force 34, Second Wind
Ian Herbert-Jones (UK), Tradewind 35, Puffin
Arnaud Gaist, (France), Barbican 33 Mk 2, Hermes Phoning
Guy Waites (UK), Tradewind 35, Sagarmatha
Edward Walentynowicz, (Canada), Rustler 36, Noah’s Jest
Guy deBoer, (USA), Tashiba 36, Spirit
Mark Sinclair (Australia), Lello 34, Coconut
Pat Lawless, (Ireland), Saltram Saga 36, Green Rebel
Damien Guillou, (France), Rustler 36, PRB
Ertan Beskardes, (UK), Rustler 36, Lazy Otter
Tapio Lehtinen, (Finland), Gaia 36, Asteria
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