An amateur sailor has been rescued from the Pacific Ocean an hour and a half after falling overboard during one of the world’s longest yacht races.
Londoner Andrew Taylor, 46, a crew member on board the Derry-Londonderry-Doire boat in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, fell over while changing a sail in rough conditions.
He was not seen for over an hour and race organisers said his lifejacket and dry suit saved his life.
Mr Taylor is believed to be suffering from shock and possible hypothermia, and is being treated on board the yacht by fellow crew member and Londoner, paramedic Susie Redhouse, 42.
Clipper organisers said Mr Taylor fell in at 12.43am UK time on Monday but was not seen again until 1.55am and taken from the ocean by his team-mates at 2.13am.
The yacht was about halfway on the 5,600-mile leg across the Pacific from Qingdao, China, to San Francisco when the accident happened.
Mr Taylor had been working on a sail change at the bow with skipper Sean McCarter, 32, from Derry, who immediately stopped the yacht, turned around, initiated the man overboard procedure and sent out a mayday alert.
He is said to be in relatively good spirits, awake and talking with fellow crew members.
Conditions were described as rough at the time with winds of 35 knots, although visibility was said to be clear.
Race director Justin Taylor said: “An hour and a half is a very long time to be in the water in these conditions, but a combination of his sea survival training and seven months at sea as well as wearing a life jacket and dry suit will have contributed enormously to his survival.”
It is the fourth time in the Clipper’s 18-year history that someone has fallen overboard and been pulled from the water – in previous incidents the crew members were recovered within minutes.
Race founder and chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “The sea can be a harsh environment and we rehearse every eventuality, including a man overboard.
“The MOB procedures were put into practice flawlessly by the crew in difficult conditions. It is a tribute to their training and determination that Andrew was successfully recovered.”
The Pacific leg of the Clipper, between China and the US, is the 10th of 16 stages in the world’s longest ocean race at more than 40,000 miles.
Andrew Taylor spoke of the terrifying ordeal as he was being treated for hypothermia below deck.
“It all happened so quickly, I was literally gone, like that, like nothing, nothing at all. I came up and braced myself waiting for the safety line, next thing I knew I hit the rudder – a flash of purple smack on the rudder. It ****ing hurt,” he said.
“I didn’t know if you were looking for me or not, I didn’t know if you’d seen me, I couldn’t hear anything. Then I saw someone up the mast and initially I thought it was a good thing because you were looking for me and then I realised it might be a bad thing because it meant you didn’t know where I was.”
He added: “I tried to stay so I could see the boat, I kept moving round, swimming round so I could see the boat thinking you’d be back really quickly but you just got further and further away.”