The skipper of a yacht who rescued one of his crew from the Pacific has said finding the sailor was worse than looking for a needle in a haystack
Sean McCarter, a native of Buncrana and former volunteer with Lough Swilly RNLI, is the skipper of the Derry-Londonderry-Doire boat in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
The 32-year-old said his teammate would have been unconscious and possibly dead if he had not been wearing a dry suit when he fell overboard 2,500 miles from land.
The yacht was about halfway on the 5,600-mile leg across the Pacific from Qingdao, China, to San Francisco when the accident happened in rough conditions on March 31.
Londoner Andrew Taylor, 46, was in the ocean for an hour-and-a-half before being rescued. He was with the skipper trying to change a head sail when the boat rolled violently and he was thrown into the water, despite being clipped on.
Mr McCarter said: “The moment he went out of sight, the Pacific all of a sudden becomes a very big place.
“We had our man overboard position marked on the chart which gives us a point to start searching from and we start going through the motions, trying to estimate where he might have drifted to with the wind and current.
“We started searching but I mean a needle in a haystack doesn’t even describe what we were looking for.
“The water temp is 10-11 degrees so you really don’t want to have someone in there for really any longer than 10-15 mins.”
Mr Taylor has recovered well from his terrifying ordeal, despite suffering severe shock, hypothermia and being hit by the rudder of the 70ft racing yacht as it swung past him.
He said: “It happened so quickly. One second my feet were on the boat, the next my head was in the water. There was nothing in between: it was just, bang, gone.” He described being turned over and over by the force of the huge swells.
This is only the third ever time in the Clipper Race’s eighteen year history that someone has had to be recovered from the water. In both previous incidents, the crew members were rescued within minutes.
The Clipper race is due to arrive in Derry on June 22 before commencing the eighth stage of the race from Derry to the Netherlands.