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Dublin: 17 °C Tuesday 23 July, 2019
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'I don't want to call the rescue services but I do need help': Broken mast leaves Irish sailor stranded

Enda O’Coineen was forced to withdraw from the Vendée Globe race on Sunday.

IRISH SAILOR ENDA O’Coineen had his solo round-the-world boat race end early at the weekend, after the mast of his boat broke south-east of New Zealand.

SAILING - VENDEE GLOBE 2016 - BI VG 0610 Source: Jean-Louis Carli

The Galway sailor had competed in the Vendée Globe competition in his boat, Kilcullen Voyager, and was in 15th place before the mast broke on New Year’s Day. At the time, he said “I have to laugh because if I don’t I will cry”.

The race is considered an extreme test of physical endurance, often dubbed the “Everest of the Seas” and the 60-year-old O’Coineen is disappointed he can’t go on to finish the race.

Today, he spoke to RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke to detail his situation, as he’s now stranded 150 miles off the southern coast of New Zealand on his 60th day at sea.

He said: “I’m not in distress and I don’t want to declare an emergency, but I am drifting about 150 miles south of New Zealand. Like a space capsule, I have enough food to last me for a few weeks.”

When speaking to O’Rourke, O’Coineen said he was wrapped in two sleeping bags and about four layers of clothes, feeling like he was more like a “spaceman in a cockpit”.

He explained how strong winds had precipitated the broken mast, and how a self-steering system giving trouble at the wrong time meant it caught him unawares.

new zealand O'Coineen says he is around 150 miles off the southern coast of New Zealand, between Dunedin and Invercargill. Source: Google Maps

“I’m lucky to have survived,” he said.

O’Coineen began his journey off the west coast of France in early November and in that time has covered over 13,000 nautical miles on the trip. He hailed the trip as “one of the most extraordinary adventures you could ever imagine”.

He had set off attempting to become the first Irishman to sail solo around the world.

Even before the mast broke, there has already been many highs and lows on the journey.

Highs have included hearing the news of the birth of his first granddaughter, crossing the equator, passing Cape Town, and reaching Australia.

His team said the lows of his trip include capsizing in the Southern Ocean, having to climb the mast alone with 20 knot winds in open water, and losing his computer system including the ability to email, use navigation software, and read weather information before Christmas.

IMG_9142 Source: Neil O'Hagan

Nevertheless, the Galway sailor is bitterly disappointed to have been forced to pull out of the race.

“The principle of the race is challenging the environment and the elements,” he said. “And I don’t really want to call the rescue services, but I do need help.

It’s not easy, I’m just waiting for the right wind, and it’s just a matter of patience. Hopefully I can get up to New Zealand and sort out the boat, and hopefully perhaps continue around the world – or abort – I’m just not sure at this point.

The latest update from the Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland’s Facebook page was that Enda is in good health, and that a vessel from the New Zealand port of Dunedin was on standby to assist O’Coineen in reaching dry land.
https://www.facebook.com/teamirelandvendee/photos/a.751685451639901.1073741828.751617814979998/857295667745545/?type=3&theater

Read: Irishman in round-the-world race without navigation system after loss of computer

Read: ‘If I don’t laugh, I’ll cry’ – Irish sailor O’Coineen dismasts on Vendee Globe

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Sean Murray

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