Sailor airlifted from another distressed vessel in transatlantic race

By The Canadian Press
June 11, 2017 - 10:00am

HALIFAX — Canadian military aircraft were sent Sunday to help another sailor who ran into trouble during a transatlantic race on the weekend, rescue officials said.

The joint rescue co-ordination centre said two aircraft were sent to rescue the sailor off the southeast coast of Newfoundland.

The centre said the lone crew member of a sailboat was hoisted into a Cormorant helicopter and flown to St. John's.

At least four sailboats ran into trouble in the mid Atlantic on Friday and Saturday, and crews on board three of the boats had to be rescued.

The vessels were sailing in a race from Plymouth, England to Newport, Rhode Island when they encountered stormy waters and had to call for help.

The Royal Western Yacht Club of England, which organized the race, said 13 boats had dropped out as of Sunday evening.

The remaining eight boats continue to cruise ahead, organizers said, and a vessel is expected to cross the finish line by the middle of the week.

Race director John Lewis said he believes the worst of the swells has passed, but competitors should brace themselves for strong winds as the abnormally intense weather system tracks across the Atlantic.

"(It's) had an effect obviously on the competitors," Lewis said in a phone interview Sunday. "There are extremes in life whatever way you look at it, and sometimes you just cannot beat the weather."  

Lewis said more boats have been retired or required rescue than in previous races,  and complimented the Canada's "superb" response to the distress calls.

The Canadian Coast Guard will likely bear the cost of the operations, Lewis said, but if the tables were turned, British officials would do the same.

"All nations support coast guard agencies and support seamen in distress," he said. "It would be exactly the same in the U.K. if we had vessels in distress, we would go."

Ricardo Diniz has been tracking the race with dismay from his home in Porto, Portugal, as he watches his former competitors stand down one-by-one.  

The 40-year-old father said he felt a storm brewing in the first hours of his maiden voyage in the transatlantic race, and was forced to retire on the second day after the heaving currents threw him across the cabin, leaving him with a fractured skull.

"I'm not there. And now I can clearly see why I'm not there," Diniz said in a phone interview. "I would have been one of the guys rescued. My health wouldn't have been up to this storm."

Diniz said he believes it is unprecedented in the race for more than half of the fleet to have fallen out this early in the competition, and said he thinks the "tragic" year will go down in the event's history books.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

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