GREGOR MCGUCKIN

Yachting Monthly - - ADVENTURE -

The Ir­ish­man later told YM, in his first full in­ter­view, just how much of his own trouble he had been in. Speak­ing in Aus­tralia, he said: ‘The sea state was phe­nom­e­nal. It was now a solid Force 10 and some gusts were 80 knots, with a 150¡ wind shift within an hour.

‘I was strug­gling to keep the boat point­ing down­wind, with or with­out warps. I don’t know if I agree with those tech­niques any more. There is a lot to be said for surf­ing the waves. As soon as I was rounded, the wind would pin me beam on. But when the re­ally big one hit, I was ac­tu­ally point­ing the right way.

‘I saw an in­cred­i­ble wave off the star­board quar­ter. I thought “oh shit”. I knew I would be rolled over. It was a break­ing wave, big­ger than all the oth­ers. It was one re­ally steep throw­ing peak. I closed the hatch but I didn’t man­age to grab hold of any­thing. The boat was just dumped up and thrown up­side down. I was thrown through the air and onto the gal­ley. Every­thing went pitch black. The boat quickly came back up the same way. It was a mess. Olive oil had ex­ploded all over the cabin, mak­ing move­ment treach­er­ous. A stowed an­chor chain had smashed through sole boards. But Mcguckin’s con­cern was out­side. The mast had bro­ken in three places and it had hit the self steer­ing.

A DES­PER­ATE RACE

‘I knew it was game over. It was heart­break­ing.

I had been re­ally en­joy­ing the race,’ he said. ‘I had to hack­saw the roller tubes of the two forestays be­fore us­ing bolt cut­ters. When I’d cut it free, the mast was still snagged on the guardrails, but I man­aged to kick it off when it was lifted by a wave. My en­ergy was fo­cussed on get­ting rid of the mast but when that was over I went back to be­ing dis­ap­pointed. I’d prob­a­bly have got de­pressed and gone to sleep for a day but then I was told about Ab­hi­lash.’

The two men had by chance spent most of the race close to each other.

They chat­ted by ra­dio for an hour a day and were close friends. Mcguckin built a jury rig with his one sur­viv­ing spin­naker pole, brac­ing a kink caused by the fall­ing mast. He man­aged to get the en­gine go­ing but only for five min­utes.

‘That was un­be­liev­ably frus­trat­ing.

I bled the whole sys­tem and I even si­phoned fuel through fil­ters, but I couldn’t get it to start. All the time I was think­ing of Ab­hi­lash. The days were pass­ing and he was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing.’ Mcguckin was re­lieved to be in a new gale be­cause it blew him along at four knots: ‘I was very tired and wouldn’t be think­ing prop­erly when along­side. The risks were huge. I was scared of it. There was a very good chance I wouldn’t have been able to do any­thing in that sea state. When I heard the French fish­eries boat was on the scene it was a huge re­lief.’

Two hours later, Mcguckin, only 25 miles from Ab­hi­lash Tomy’s boat, was picked up too, so as not to risk an­other res­cue un­der jury rig, and the two men were reunited: ‘That was great. We felt such re­lief.’

All of the men sur­vived but only Slats re­mained in the race. Wiig and Mcguckin are back safe and well with fam­ily. Tomy was ul­ti­mately taken to hos­pi­tal in Delhi for his back to be op­er­ated on.

As we went to press, only eight of the 18 boats are still sail­ing. On 20 Oc­to­ber, French­man Loïc Lepage was dis­masted 600 miles SW of Perth, hol­ing his hull. He ac­ti­vated his EPIRB and was mak­ing way un­der en­gine to­wards two ves­sels of­fer­ing as­sis­tance.

ABOVE: Mcguckin demon­strated ex­tra­or­di­nary sea­man­ship in at­tempt­ing to reach Tomy, de­spite his own brutal dis­mast­ing BE­LOW: Ab­hi­lash Tomy was taken to hos­pi­tal in Delhi for surgery on his back

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