A 62-year-old French sailor survived for 16 hours in the Atlantic Ocean after his boat capsized – using an air bubble inside the overturned vessel.
The brave sailor was eventually rescued from the choppy waters by Spanish Coastguard divers in what they described as an operation ‘bordering on the impossible’.
The 40ft boat, called Jeanne SOLO Sailor, sent out a distress signal at 11.23pm local time on Monday, 14 miles from the Sisargas Islands off the northwest region of Galicia, Spain. coast guard said.
Tracking data shows he had left the Portuguese capital of Lisbon on Sunday morning.
As a Coast Guard vessel carrying five divers embarked on the rescue mission, one of three helicopters sent to assist in the search found the capsized boat as the sun set.
A diver was hoisted onto the ship’s hull to search for signs of life and the sailor inside, who has not been named, responded to his blow to the hull by striking from within.
With the sea too rough to attempt a rescue, they attached buoyancy balloons to the ship’s hull to prevent it from sinking further and waited until morning, with the Frenchman still trapped below.
Two divers swam under the boat to help the sailor, whom they found wearing a neoprene survival suit and knee-deep in water.
“Every life saved is our greatest reward,” the Spanish Maritime Safety and Rescue Society said in a tweet.
Vicente Cobelo, a member of the Coast Guard’s special operations team, told a local station that the man voluntarily jumped into the freezing water and swam under the boat to reach the surface of the sea.
“On his own initiative he got into the water and snorkeled, helped by the divers who had to pull him because it was difficult for him to get out in his wetsuit,” he said.
He was airlifted to safety and taken to hospital, but was released shortly afterwards in good condition.
With post wires