Grate­ful to res­cue he­roes

Southern Telegraph - - Front Page - Pierra Wil­lix

Royal Aus­tralian Navy ves­sel HMAS Bal­larat has re­turned to Gar­den Is­land af­ter help­ing res­cue an Ir­ish sailor whose boat cap­sized in a storm while he was un­der­tak­ing a solo trip around the world.

Gre­gor McGuckin, 32, was com­pet­ing in the Golden Globe Race and was al­most three months into his jour­ney when, late last month, his yacht cap­sized and was dis­masted.

Mr McGuckin de­scribed the con­di­tions he ex­pe­ri­enced as the strong­est winds and big­gest seas he had ever en­coun­tered on the ocean.

The storm also left fel­low race com­peti­tor, In­dian man Ab­hi­lash Tomy, se­verely in­jured and un­able to sail any fur­ther.

Af­ter hear­ing of Mr Tomy’s con­di­tion, Mr McGuckin was able to start steer­ing his yacht to­wards Mr Tomy’s lo­ca­tion, all with­out a work­ing en­gine.

How­ever, both men were soon picked up by a French fish­eries pa­trol ves­sel.

“Any­one would have done the same thing, I was the clos­est boat and did what I could,” Mr McGuckin said.

Af­ter be­ing taken to tiny is­land Ile Am­s­ter­dam, si­t­u­ated be­tween Aus­tralia and South­ern Africa, Mr McGuckin was brought back to Aus­tralia by the crew on the HMAS Bal­larat, which docked in Rock­ing­ham on Mon­day af­ter­noon.

HMAS Bal­larat cap­tain Paul John­son said the crew had been pre­par­ing for a nine-month mis­sion when they got the call early last Satur­day morn­ing ask­ing if they could as­sist in the res­cue of sailors whose boats had been dam­aged in the race.

Capt. John­son said 135 crew mem­bers as­sisted in the res­cue ef­fort, with all un­aware what sit­u­a­tion they were ini­tially go­ing into on the four-day tran­sit to­wards the sailors.

”We had been told there were three yachts that had been im­pacted by the storm and we were brac­ing for the worst case sce­nario with three po­ten­tial res­cues,” he said.

The in­ter­na­tional res­cue ef­fort in­volved French fish­eries, the In­dian Navy and the Royal Aus­tralian Navy.

Now in­tend­ing to spend a few weeks in Aus­tralia re­lax­ing with fam­ily, Mr McGuckin ex­pressed his grat­i­tude for the peo­ple he de­scribed as the “real he­roes”, who co-or­di­nated and ex­e­cuted the mis­sion.

“I am for­ever in­debted by your ef­fort, and while Aus­tralia was never my in­tended fi­nal port, I couldn’t be more happy and grate­ful to be here,” he said.

The Golden Globe race is due to fin­ish next year.

Mr McGuckin said he would take “a bit of con­vinc­ing” to com­pete again.

Mr Tomy is re­cov­er­ing from his in­juries.

Any­one would have done the same thing, I was the clos­est boat and did what I could. Gre­gor McGuckin

Pic­tures: Christo­pher Szum­lan­ski and Pierra Wil­lix

Able Sea­man medic Re­nee Sim­mons as­sesses Gre­gor McGuckin on board HMAS Bal­larat. IN­SET: Mr McGuckin ar­rives at HMAS Stir­ling on Mon­day.

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