Yachtie's rescue 'a miracle'

ALL ABOARD: Alain Delord with passengers on the MV Orion
after his rescue.
ALL ABOARD: Alain Delord with passengers on the MV Orion after his rescue.

A French solo yachtsman plucked from a life raft in remote waters off Australia says it is a miracle he was found.

Alain Delord sent out a distress call on Friday after abandoning his yacht in the sea off the coast of Tasmania, forcing a cruise ship to sail for days off course to rescue him.

The MV Orion picked him up on Sunday night, after he spent two days drifting.

RESCUED: Alain Delord being winched on to the cruise ship, after days drifting in life raft.
RESCUED: Alain Delord being winched on to the cruise ship, after days drifting in life raft.

Delord said it was a miracle the cruise liner was able to  find him.

''It's a second chance at life,'' he told reporters through a translator in Hobart today. ''It's a miracle the Orion was on the way back.''

Orion captain Mike Taylor said the rescue conditions were extremely difficult.

''Once we got there it was touch and go. Visibility was very very bad.''

It took the Orion three days to reach Delord.

Taylor said they made good progress in the first two days, but on the last day the wind and swell slowed the ship.

That left the crew with only 20 minutes of daylight to pull  Delord from the water after reaching him at 9pm, three hours later  than Taylor had hoped.

''The problem with that of course is that the sun sets at 2120  (9.20pm) and although you've got a little bit of twilight you're  really under the gun to effect the rescue while you've still got  daylight,'' Taylor said.

''It's not the kind of thing you can do in the hours of darkness.''

The ship's crew and expedition team spent the time it took them  to reach Delord forming a plan to rescue him.

''My heart was really in my mouth,'' Taylor said.

Delord described himself as ''pretty lucky'' to escape the ordeal  with only a few bruises, scratches and swollen hands.

''When first contact happens you know someone's aware and you  feel much better,'' delord said.''You're hoping for life and for someone to come and rescue you.''

He also thanked his rescuers, saying ''merci'' several times

Authorities dropped food, water, a martime radio and a survival suit to Delord  from a plane after they located him.


The cruise ship company is refusing to say whether it will compensate the passengers whose holidays were diverted to rescue the sailor.

The Orion was 11 days into an 18-day Antarctic cruise when it changed course for the rescue and miss a promised stop on Macquarie Island.

The starting price for a cabin on the ship was believed to be about A$20,000.

But Orion Expeditions, the cruise operator, has refused to answer repeated questions about the cost of the rescue and whether it would compensate passengers.

''Everybody on board this ship has paid a price for this rescue,'' said Don McIntyre, who led the Orion's expedition to rescue Delord. ''The passengers have had to give up a major part of their expedition.''

McIntyre said while passengers were initially annoyed at missing the Macquarie Island stop, they had not complained or questioned the decision since.

''I'm yet to see anyone that's grumbling,'' he said. ''No one ever questioned the intent or reason why we were going to pick Alain up.''

The Australian government was also refusing to answer questions about the cost of Delord's rescue.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said it did not comment on the cost of rescues. An AMSA plane identified Delord's position and dropped him provisions.

An AMSA spokeswoman said it was unlikely the cruise ship company would receive compensation for the rescue as the ship was obliged to divert its course under the international Safety of Life at Sea convention.

Delord was apparently planning to thank the ship's guests and crew for his rescue on Monday night.

He was pursuing a long-held ambition of following the path of the round-the-world Vendee Globe Race - but not officially competing in it - when the mast on his yacht broke.

- AAP and Sydney Morning Herald