15 Jan 2017

Stranded Irish yachtie vows to complete adventure

11:43 am on 15 January 2017

He didn't want to come to New Zealand, but in some ways it's been a blessing in disguise for stranded Irish yachtsman Enda O'Coineen.

Yachtsman Enda O'Coineen, standing, joins well-wishers in Dunedin before departing.

Yachtsman Enda O'Coineen, standing, joins well-wishers in Dunedin before departing. Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

After a week in Dunedin fixing a new mast to his racing yacht, the Kilcullen Voyager, Mr O'Coineen is today setting sail to Auckland and says he's not ready to give up on his solo round-the-world adventure.

He was forced to seek safe harbour in Dunedin last week after his mast snapped off the south-east coast of New Zealand on New Year's Day in the arduous solo round-the-world race, the Vendee Globe.

The yachtsman spent five days drifting at sea, working his way towards Dunedin, preferring not to issue a distress call.

Race organisers chartered a fishing boat to tow his yacht into Dunedin last Thursday night, and since then Mr O'Coineen has been working hard to get the vessel seaworthy again.

He said he had been given a smaller mast which would enable him to sail to Auckland, where he would put the yacht in a boat yard for thorough specialist repairs.

A crowd has gathered at a free barbecue to see Mr O'Coineen off, with the yachtsman joining in on drums for a traditional Irish music session.

Mr O'Coineen was the first Irish person to compete in the Vendee Globe, which made his untimely exit all the more frustrating for the 60-year-old.

Stranded sailor Enda O'Coineen

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

But he said, ending up in New Zealand was far from the worst outcome.

"It's a kind of bizzare situation. I really don't want to be here, I don't want to be here at all.

"But in another way I'm delighted to be here. I've had a wonderful welcome."

He said many Irish people had stopped by the Carey's Bay Historic Hotel, where he was staying, to say hello.

In contrast to his weak physical condition when he arrived in Dunedin, Mr O'Coineen said he thought he would now "die from health".

He had cycled 13kms from Port Chalmers to Dunedin and back each day to keep fit.

"It's my mind I'd be suspicious of actually. The body's ok but psychologically it's quite challenging."

The unscheduled lay-by had also enabled him to foster links for the Atlantic Youth Trust in Ireland, modelled on New Zealand's Spirit of Adventure Trust.

"It's something telling me that destiny has brought me here, so we're building on those links."

He said his yacht would stay in Auckland for repairs while he flew home, but he would be back in six months to complete his adventure and earn the title of the first Irish person to sail single-handedly around the world.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense but that's the challenge.

"You take on the risk, you accept the consequences, so the consequences are pretty tough but I set out on a course to achieve something and I'm not the sort to give up."

Yachtsman Enda O'Coineen with the damage to his yacht, the Kilcullen Voyager.

Yachtsman Enda O'Coineen with the damage to his yacht, the Kilcullen Voyager. Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson