(January 20; Updated: 10 a.m. EST, January 23) -- A cruise ship has come to the rescue of a French sailor adrift in a life raft for three days on the Southern Ocean.
Alain Delord was picked up by luxury expedition ship, Orion, Sunday, January 20, after the mast of his yacht was broken and the hull damaged by rough weather near Tasmania on Friday.
According to a statement from Orion Expedition Cruises, Delord was attempting to sail around the world on his yacht, alone and unassisted, when seven-meter (23-foot) swells and 40-knot winds caused the damage to the vessel. The 62-year-old Frenchman managed to contact the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, who sent out an emergency request to ships in the area and dispatched Royal Australian Air Force search and rescue aircraft to locate Delord.
When Delord was sighted, the RAAF dropped supplies -- including a life raft, safety suit, food and communications equipment -- but were unable to make the rescue themselves. As the closest ship to respond to the emergency request, Orion undertook the legally obligated steps to change course and attempt rescue, despite being 687 nautical miles away.
The 4,000-ton, 106-passenger ship spent 54 hours battling the wind and weather to reach Delord's coordinates at 8:30 p.m., local time, on Sunday. With daylight fading, Orion relied on flares dropped by the RAAF to guide the ship to the life raft.
Kate Selley of Orion Expeditions told Cruise Critic that Orion, which was on the 11th day of an 18-day Antarctica sailing, had 91 passengers and 75 crew onboard who witnessed the rescue: "The crew of Orion located the life raft 380 nautical miles south-west [of the Tasmanian port] of Hobart, and Captain Mike Taylor put the rescue plan into action, positioning the 104-metre Orion to windward of the raft creating a relatively calm patch for a Zodiac to be deployed."
Delord was brought aboard and given a clean bill of health by the ship's doctor before enjoying a meal, a glass of wine and a cup of tea and retiring to a suite onboard that had been prepared for him.
Orion set course for the last scheduled port of call on the cruise itinearary -- Hobart -- arriving on Tuesday January 22. Delord disembarked and received replacements for the passport and other documents he'd lost at sea, according to the statement from the line.
Given that Orion's passengers missed multiple ports and several days of their cruise, Orion Expeditions offered a choice of a partial refund or a future cruise credit, "in recognition of the inconvenience caused." Additionally, the line scheduled three days' worth of shore tours in Tasmania and sent two representatives to Hobart to meet with passengers and "resolve any issues they may have."
--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor, and Jamey Bergman, U.K. Production Editor