Irish skipper Enda O'Coineen limps into Dunedin on broken yacht
The Irish yachtie on a solo round-the-world race says he is "pleased to be alive" and in Dunedin after his boat's mast was destroyed and engine broken.
As dawn broke on the first day of 2017, Enda O'Coineen's yacht was about 200 nautical miles off the east coast of the South Island with no engine and no sail. He was out of range of any rescue helicopter and the nearest fishing boat was 180 nautical miles away.
The Team Ireland skipper arrived in Dunedin at 12.20am on Friday after sailing 240 nautical miles over five days with an improvised sail.
O'Coineen was 57 days into the Vendee Globe endurance solo yacht race, described as the "Everest of sailing", when a squall early on New Year's Day ripped his mast into the sea.
He scrambled to cut the mast and rigging free to stop it from putting a hole in the hull and sinking the boat. The ropes tangled around the propeller taking out the engine.
He said his "whole world fell apart" when the squall toppled the mast.
"My whole life just went by, it was as if someone had cut my arm or leg off," he said.
"My life was shattered. I was absolutely gutted."
He said adrenalin saw him through the ordeal of cutting the mast and rigging free in high seas.
"I would like to say that I wasn't afraid, but I was scared s…less."
He rigged together a temporary sail that, together with a friendly wind, took him to safe harbour in Dunedin.
"It took a lot of careful nurturing to get up here.
"It wasn't pretty, but it got me here.
"I could still be at sea if there had been a westerly gale."
He was met 12 nautical miles off the New Zealand coast by Lady Dorothy, a 21-metre wooden trawler skippered by Port Chalmers local Steve Little.
Little also put up the Irish skipper in his pub for the night.
"I had been two months on my own at sea, so it was nice to have some company," O'Coineen said.
"We had a nice little whiskey."
Little said they encountered 4-metre swells when they went to tow the yacht into port.
"He was quite pleased to see us. He hadn't seen anyone for 60 days.
"It was devastating for him to have that major failure."
O'Coineen, 60, would have been the first Irish sailor to complete the endurance race, which started in Les Sables-d'Olonne, France, on November 6, 2016.
He is now considering what to do next. He could sell the damaged yacht, fix it up and complete the journey, or ship it back to Ireland.
"I put my life savings into buying and building this boat.
"I would like to repair the boat and sail her back, but I'm reluctant to say that."
The boat could be repaired in Tauranga, where it was originally built, he said.
He said he made a New Year's resolution on the journey to Dunedin: "It was to take less risk in my life if I make it back."