5 Jan 2017

Irish yachtie with broken mast limps towards Dunedin

12:25 pm on 5 January 2017

An Irish yachtsman who has been drifting in his yacht for five days off the Otago coast with a broken mast is finally bearing down on Dunedin.

Stranded sailor Enda O'Coineen

Stranded sailor Enda O'Coineen Photo: Facebook / Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland

Enda O'Coineen was representing Team Ireland in the Vendee Globe race, which involves sailing around the world without stopping and without assistance.

The race is billed as the most famous and most arduous in the world, and O'Coineen was the first Irish person to compete in the challenge.

Competitors set sail from - and finish in - the French town of Les Sables d'Olonne after rounding the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, Cape Leeuwin in Southern Australia and the Cape Horn at the tip of South America.

In an online race log from 2 January, Mr O'Coineen said the mast on his 60-foot monohull boat, the 'Kilcullen Voyager', broke in strong winds on New Year's Day and he was stranded about 180 nautical miles south-east of Dunedin.

"It was a sudden 35-knot squall and a series of involuntary gybes - as the boat self-steering at a critical times went out of control - which caught us without a backstay runner and not enough support for the mast."

O'Coineen said he was "a bundle of emotion, trying to figure out what it all means - heartbroken and devastated".

He jury-rigged his boat and had spent the past five days drifting towards Dunedin with no engine, opting not to put out a call for rescue.

Maritime New Zealand said at about midday on Thursday, O'Coineen was not far from Dunedin.

A Team Ireland spokesman earlier said a fishing trawler would make the trip from Otago Harbour today to meet O'Coineen and tow him back into harbour.

The 'Lady Dorothy' fishing trawler left Dunedin at about midday and should return with the stricken yacht some time tomorrow.

The Spirit of Adventure Otago regional co-ordinator Tony Cummings said he had been in touch with the race team, and would have a spare bedroom ready for O'Coineen on his arrival.

"I'm quite happy to have him here, the other difficulty will be where we place his yacht."

An abandoned French yacht from the same race was already berthed in Dunedin, and it would be a matter of finding room for one more.

The hull of Thomas Ruyant's yacht Le Souffle du Nord was split when it struck an unidentified floating object of the West Coast in December, and it limped into Bluff.