UPDATE: IAN HERBERT-JONES RESCUED British solo skipper de-masted in violent South Atlantic storm
April 11, 2023
British solo sailor Ian Herbert-Jones has been successfully rescued following an international search and rescue operation after he was rolled, de-masted and injured in a major storm in the South Atlantic.
Herbert-Jones was competing in the single-handed Golden Globe Race when he was repeatedly rolled last night (April 10) in a storm with winds over 50 knots, gusting 70, and a severe sea state.
At 1845 UTC this evening, (Tuesday April 11) Golden Globe Race organisers posted the following update confirming his safe rescue: “IAN HERBERT JONES !! IS ON THE FISHING VESSEL ZI DA WANG.”
Between 1815 and 1830 UTC the Zi Da Wang arrived at Herbert-Jones’s position, and was manoeuvred to the west of Puffin, sitting to windward of the dismasted yacht in order to provide a lee and flatten the sea for Herbert-Jones. This enabled the solo skipper to manoeuvre at close quarters to the ship, while in contact with the Zi Da Wang bridge by VHF radio to discuss the best way to transfer from Puffin to the 76m ship.
It’s not yet known how the solo skipper, who had reported back and shoulder injuries that were restricting his movement, completed the transfer in 25 knot winds and a 4m sea. However, it evidently was achieved swiftly, as he was reported to be on the ship by 1845.
The organisers’ post continued: “He was recovered at 1845 UTC today . He is battered and bruised with scrapes and scratches, some back pain, but he is very happy to be with the crew. The master of the rescue ship moved straight into a recovery operation in the 25k wind and 4 mtr sea as soon as they were on scene.
“Congratulations to all the personnel, ships, government agencies involved over the past 30 hours who have displayed complete professionalism , dedication and passion in continuing one of the strong traditions of the sea.”
The fishing vessel is believed to be headed to Cape Town, South Africa.
Race organisers continued: “The GGR wish to thank the SAR Puerto Belgrano in Argentina and the MRCC Taiwan for an exemplary international coordination of Ian’s rescue, as well as the shipowner, masters and crew of the F/V Zi Da Wang and the F/V Fa Da Cai and Yuh Sheng N°1. and the MV Lilibet, MRCC UK and GRIZ NEZ France were also on standby.”
Dismasted in the South Atlantic
During yesterday’s storm Herbert-Jones’s Tradewind 35 Puffin was repeated rolled in a violent sea state, dismasted and took on water, though Herbert-Jones reported that he could control that with the manual bilge pump.
After Herbert-Jones activated both his EPIRB and YB3 tracker distress signal, MRCC Argentina began co-ordinating his rescue. Herbert-Jones was approximately 1200 miles east of Argentina, or 900 miles north-east of the Falkland Islands, so far beyond helicopter range.
Race organisers initially reported that MRCC Argentina was struggling to receive confirmation from any ships in the area that they could assist, with it likely being unsafe for any vessels north/north-east of Puffin’s position to attempt to turn in the severe sea conditions.
At 0400 UTC Golden Globe Race organisers posted: “MRCC Argentina is challenged in their attempt to contact ships or fishing vessels in the area with no response so far from anyone confirming they are headed toward Ian/Puffin. The weather around Ian is slowly moderating with wind SW36k gusting 56K with 8.2 mtr sea. More Updates when we know.”
Shortly afterwards it was confirmed that the Falkland Islands Fisheries Patrol Vessel Lilibet had been tasked to rescue Herbert-Jones, but was some 300 miles south and 30 hours away. Lilibet began steaming towards Herbert-Jones at 12 knots, and was predicted to arrive at Puffin’s last reported position tomorrow morning (April 12).
The newly launched 50m Falklands fisheries patrol vessel Lilibet is involved in the rescue of British solo sailor Ian Hebert-Jones. Photo: MarineTraffic
In a series of developments, it was later confirmed that a Taiwanese fishing vessel was also diverting to Puffin’s position.
Golden Globe Race organisers posted: “UPDATE: No news from PUFFIN. We have asked him for an update at 0600UTC. WEATHER On scene now is SW34K Gusts 50K Sea 8.2mtr. Forecast 0900UTC SW34 G47 S8 1800UTC W23 G40 S6.5 At 0610UTC, AGENCIA NACIONAL SAR (ACSM) ARGENTINA advised the following…
“We have communicated with MRCC Taiwan and diverted the course of the fishing vessel ZI DA WANG 45ª34’S 038ª20W, which is 90 NM off PUFFIN. In reply they have told me that they will attempt rescue, estimating their arrival on the 11th at 1900 UTC, but the rescue will depend on weather conditions.”
Two further Taiwanese fishing vessels, the FA DA CAI and YUH SHENG N°1, also diverted towards Herbert-Jones’s position today and the Lilibet was later stood down, though they voluntarily continued to make miles towards the casualty while the Argentinian and Taiwanese MRCCs co-ordinated the rescue effort.
EPIRB activated in 70-knot storm
The rescue concludes an ordeal which lasted over 24 hours for the solo sailor. The storm was forecast and Herbert-Jones had time to prepare for it, but could not sail out of its path in his 35ft yacht.
In a satellite call with race organisers at 1540UTC on April 10, Herbert-Jones reported that he was having difficulty launching his drogue due to the breaking waves, with the wave height estimated to be around 7.5m with a dangerous counter sea state.
Herbert-Jones then manually activated his EPIRB, initially because he was unable to make contact by satphone. At 1725 UTC he also manually activated the distress signal via his YB3 satellite tracking
and texting unit, issuing the following message: “Button ALERT…. 46., 57.250S 037, 12.382W”
At 1810 UTC, Herbert-Jones activated Puffin’s second satphone and second YB3 tracking and texting device, which are normally on standby, so both are ready for use.
At 1842 UTC Herbert-Jones reported that he had been rolled again, Puffin was dismasted, and he had injured his back. The YB3 text message: “Rolled Dismasted , injured Back, hard to move, 2ft water in boat.”
Two minutes later, he sent a second message (1844 UTC): “Situation getting worse..need weather break to cut rig from PUFFIN”
Herbert Jones was in a forecast sea state of 7.7m waves from the south west, combined with a 1.8m north-easterly secondary swell at 9 second intervals. These two opposing seas are likely to have generated extremely dangerous conditions. Winds were understood to have been around 50 knots, gusting 70-80.
At 2015 Herbert-Jones confirmed that he was able to begin cutting the rig away, sending a message by satellite phone: “Cutting Rig away, water ingress under control, Back getting stiff, Gashed head.”
Organisers have released a recording of last night’s 2015UTC satellite phone call with Herbert-Jones, in which the skipper sounds tired but calm. He reports that the weather ingress is under control, and he has begun cutting the rigging away. He also reported that he had gashed his head, and injured his back.
Speaking to race organiser Don McIntyre, Herbert-Jones said: “Well I’ve had better days. The rig came down, and the mast is still banging against the side of the hull at the moment. I haven’t been able to cut all the rigging away yet. I’ve managed to deploy the drogue, and I’ve got the water ingress under control.
“I’m halfway through the rigging but I keep getting driven back, the weather is just crazy. So the mast is still hanging over the side and sort of slamming against the boat.
“My back is painful, I’m running out of movement fast. I’ve damaged the shoulder, I’ve got a gash on my head, but it’s the back that is stopping me moving around very well.”