Sailor, 62, survives 16 hours under capsized boat in Atlantic Ocean

A 62-year-old French sailor was rescued after being trapped under his boat for 16 hours overnight in the frigid Atlantic Ocean, said the Spanish coast guards who saved him.

“On the edge of the impossible, in an operation against the clock, with rough seas, at night, 15 miles from the coast and in the middle of nowhere,” was how Spanish coast guards described the dramatic rescue.

The sailor, who hasn’t been named, sent out a distress signal on Monday around 8:30 p.m. local time from his slowly sinking 12-metre Jeanne Solo Sailor vessel. Tracking data showed that he had set sail from Lisbon, Portugal on Sunday morning and had made it around 23 kilometres from the Sisargas Islands off Spain’s northwestern Galicia region when he encountered problems with his boat.

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The Frenchman found an air bubble trapped under his boat and waited for help.

After receiving his distress signal, the Spanish coast guard deployed a rescue ship with five divers and three helicopters to search for the missing man. One of the helicopters spotted the upturned boat on the choppy waters just as the sun was going down.

A video shared by the Spanish coast guard showed a member of the rescue team being lowered onto the capsized boat and banging on the hull to see if the sailor was still alive. Thankfully, he was still responsive and the sailor knocked on the ship from the inside to let the rescuer know he was there.

“Cada vida salvada es nuestra mayor recompensa”

Así fue el rescate realizado ayer por Salvamento Marítimo al tripulante del velero francés JEANNE SOLO SAILOR que estaba quilla al sol a 14 millas NNW de Islas Sisargas.

— SALVAMENTO MARÍTIMO (@salvamentogob) August 3, 2022

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By the time the coast guard had located the sailor, the waters of the Atlantic were rough and choppy and visibility was low because the sun had gone down. Rescuers decided it was too risky to attempt a rescue so they attached buoyancy balloons to the ship’s hull to prevent it from sinking any further.

At around 12 p.m. local time on Tuesday, divers were able to extract the sailor from his upturned boat.

Two divers swam under the boat and found the sailor wearing a neoprene survival suit and submerged in water up to his knees.

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Vicente Cobelo, a member of the coast guard’s special operations team, told a local station that the man then jumped into the freezing water and swam under the boat to reach the water’s surface.“Of his own initiative he got into the water and freedived out, helped by the divers who had to pull him through because it was difficult for him to get out in his suit,” Cobelo said.The man was airlifted to safety and taken to hospital for a medical examination, and was discharged soon afterwards with no issues.“Each life saved is our greatest reward,” the coast guard said.

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