A man has survived for 16 hours after his sailboat capsized in the Atlantic Ocean, following a rescue operation described by the Spanish coast guard as “verging on the impossible”.
The 62-year-old French managed to survive in an air bubble inside his capsized boat, the 40-foot Jeanne SOLO Sailor. The boat had sent out a distress signal at 8:23 p.m. local time on Monday from 14 miles off the Sisargas Islands near Spain’s northwestern Galicia region, having set sail from the Portuguese capital Lisbon the previous day.
Following the distress signal, three helicopters were dispatched to locate the vessel in a race against the sunset. Having located the boat and establishing that the man was still alive inside, rescue workers were forced to stall any immediate extraction attempt due to rough sea conditions.
Having attached buoyancy balloons to keep the upturned boat afloat, Two divers swam under the vessel to rescue the man once conditions were more favorable.
Two divers swam under the boat to help the sailor out, who they found wearing a neoprene survival suit and submerged in water up to his knees.
Vicente Cobelo, a member of the coast guard’s special operations team, said the man had voluntarily jumped into the freezing water, wearing a neoprene survival suit.
“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,” he said.
The man, who has not been named, was airlifted to hospital for checks but released shortly after admission suffering no ill-effects.