Cruise ship makes 53-hour diversion to rescue sailor adrift off coast of Tasmania

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News

On Sunday, a cruise ship on its way back from the Antarctic responded to a distress call from Australian authorities: a solo yachter had abandoned his boat near Tasmania and needing rescuing.

French sailor Alain Delord ran into trouble on Friday, when the rough weather broke his yacht's mast and forced him to abandon ship.

He spent three days on a life raft.

While Australian authorities were able to drop food, water, and a survival suit to the 63-year-old adventurer, the location was too remote for a helicopter rescue, BBC News reported.

Luxury cruise ship Orion answered the distress call instead, making a 53-hour diversion to pick up the sailor attempting an around-the-world voyage. Delord was eventually rescued uninjured and in "reasonable spirits."

The actual rescue mission took 25 minutes.

We changed plans on the run, a lot of things didn't quite work out the way we thought but we modified the plans very quickly," Tasmanian yachtsman and expedition leader Don McIntyre, who was on the Orion, said.

"The zodiac [inflatable boat] went straight to the life raft and we managed to get Alain out very quickly into another raft and came back to the side gate [of the Orion] where we were able to attach a line to him and wait for the swells to work with us and then we quickly hauled him in through the side of the ship."

Orion captain Mike Taylor told ABC Radio that while his 100 passengers were, at first, "massively disappointed" about the diversion, they cheered on the rescue.

"There was a cheer you could hear right over the ship when we pulled him in through the door," Captain Taylor said.

Once onboard, the lucky Frenchman toasted his rescuers with a glass of red wine and thanked them for saving his life.

"'He is currently receiving medical attention and early indications are that he is healthy," the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said. "Weather conditions were better than expected and there was plenty of light in the area."

None of the rescuers were injured in the effort.

"He's very happy to be here, I can tell you that," said Captain Taylor.

"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."

Taylor added: "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."

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese congratulated both the AMSA and the Orion crew for coordinating the rescue.

"Australia does have big responsibilities because of where we're located in the world, but it's important that those responsibilities be fulfilled in accordance with international law and practice, and certainly in this case...a fantastic effort from all involved," he said.