Sailor survives for 16 hours in capsized boat off Spain

Sailor survives for 16 hours in capsized boat off Spain

Rescuers located vessel as sun set but rough seas meant they had to wait until morning to help free man

A 62-year-old Frenchman survived for 16 hours in an air bubble inside his capsized sailing boat in the Atlantic Ocean before being rescued by Spanish coastguard divers in what they described as an operation “verging on the impossible”.

The 12-metre (40ft) Jeanne Solo Sailor sent out a distress signal at 8.23pm on Monday 14 miles from the Sisargas Islands off Spain’s north-western Galicia region, the coastguard said. Tracking data shows it had set sail from the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, on Sunday morning.

As a rescue ship carrying five divers set sail, one of three helicopters sent to aid the search located the upturned vessel as the sun went down. A diver was winched on to the ship’s hull to seek signs of life, and the man inside, who has not been named, responded to his banging on the hull by knocking from inside.

With the sea too rough to attempt a rescue, the coastguard attached buoyancy balloons to the ship’s hull to prevent it from sinking further and waited until the morning.

The capsized boat off Galicia

Two divers swam under the boat to help free the sailor, who they found wearing a neoprene survival suit and submerged in water up to his knees.

Vicente Cobelo, a member of the coastguard’s special operations team, told a local station that the man then jumped into the freezing water and swam under the boat to reach the sea’s surface.

“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,” Cobelo said.

The man was airlifted to safety and taken to hospital for checks, and was discharged soon afterwards with no issues.