Portuguese SAR authorities have successfully completed a complex long-range medevac for a crewmember who was seriously injured during the McIntyre Ocean Globe race, a faithful recreation of the 1973 Whitbread Round the World race for “ordinary sailors on normal yachts.”
The Ocean Globe’s 14 competing teams got under way from Southampton on September 10 and headed south, bound for Cape Town on the first leg of the race. On Sunday, while transiting past the coast of Portugal, the skipper of the racing yacht Triana notified race organizers that a crewmember had fallen on deck and badly cut his leg behind the knee. The victim, Stéphane Raguenes, was taken belowdecks and treated to stop the bleeding. The wound was serious, but not immediately life-threatening.
His crewmates got in touch with the race’s telemedicine provider for a consultation, and the maritime rescue agencies of France, Portugal, Spain and Morocco were notified of a developing situation.
The Triana’s skipper had the rare opportunity to choose among several nearby medical options. The container ship Chicago E was about 10 nm away, and it happened to have a doctor on board who could assist. In addition, a competing racing yacht had a doctor on its crew and was only 12 nm away. However, the weather and surface conditions were too rough to make a safe ship-to-ship transfer.
The third option was to divert to Portugal, 135 nm to the east. The skipper decided that this was not the best choice, and the yacht continued heading south to Las Palmas at best speed. This was the least risky option, according to the race organizers.
However, circumstances changed overnight. Raguenes continued to lose blood from his wound, and his condition deteriorated. The yacht’s pace towards the Canary Islands also slowed down as the winds slackened, increasing the projected time to deliver the victim to higher care.
Just after 0700 hours on Monday, the skipper of Triana contacted the race organizers to ask for an immediate helicopter medevac.
At this point, Triana was located about 225 nm off the coast of Madeira. Portugal’s Rescue Coordination Center took command of the response mission and dispatched a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter to the scene. The helicopter arrived after 1600, and the crew of the yacht transferred Raguenes into a liferaft to get away from the yacht’s rigging and make hoisting possible. Three of his crewmates joined him in the raft to assist, and secured to the yacht by a lifeline, they drifted nearby to await the rescue.
Crew of Triana transfer Raguenes onto a life raft for hoisting (Margault Demasles / Team Triana / OGR2023)
At 1645, the helicopter crew hoisted Raguenes aboard and began the two-hour flight back to Madeira. He was delivered safely for medical treatment, and the Triana resumed her voyage southbound towards Cape Town.
The Ocean Globe Race hopes to bring back the spirit of the original Whitbread race, held 50 years ago this year. The rules limit entrants to fiberglass-hull production yachts built before 1988; no GPS navigation; no computers; and no high-tech materials. (Backup GPS, AIS, EPIRB and other modern safety aids are required for carriage, but not allowed during competition.) Skill with a sextant is part of the equation for success, and paid professional sailors are limited to a third of the crew complement, keeping the race focused on amateur accessibility.
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