Golden Globe Race: Tapio Lehtinen saved and dry on a cargo ship after sinking

Phew of relief to the race management of the Golden Globe Race. The Finnish Tapio Lethinen was recovered safe and sound this Saturday morning by Kirsten Neuschafer off South Africa. The skipper is now on board a bulk carrier heading for China.

“We had a call this Saturday morning at 9:05 a.m. from Kirsten, who informed us that she had picked up Tapio in his life raft. He is in good shape, and he is now on board the bulk carrier Darya Gayatri, bound for Asia” , summarizes relieved Sébastien Delasnerie, race director of The Golden Globe Race based in Les Sables d’Olonne.

Happy epilogue of a rescue off South Africa. Friday morning, the Finnish navigator gave the alert, activating his distress beacon. His boat Asteria sank within minutes for reasons currently unknown. The skipper had crossed the gate of Cape Town and was heading for Australia. The water invaded the sailboat at the stern. Tapio had to board his life raft. “I greeted Asteria one last time in the life raft as it sank,” said the sailor.

“I greeted Asteria one last time in the life raft, as it sank”

Tapio Lehtinen, skipper of Asteria

At that time, Tapio was 460 nautical miles southeast of Port Elisabeth in South Africa. In the rush, Tapio didn’t take his glasses. It was therefore difficult for him to send and read the messages. Around 1:30 p.m., two GGR skippers, Kirsten Neuschaëfer (Minnehaha) and Abhilash Tomy (Bayanat) diverted to assist him. A merchant ship Darya Gayatri also turns away from its trajectory to assist the castaway.

It was at 6:30 this Saturday morning that Tapio saw Kirsten’s sailboat. But she does not see him in his life raft in a 2.5 meter swell. “You can’t get closer to the ocean, but it’s a little too close for my taste. Thank you for taking care of me”, said Tapio who did not lose his good humor during these long hours of waiting. By VHS, they manage to coordinate. And at 7:35 a.m., Tapio is on board the skipper’s boat safely after a night spent in his raft. A few minutes later, after sharing a good glass of rum, Tapio is transferred to the Darya Gayatri which is heading for Rizaho in China, where he will drop off the survivor. “ He climbed aboard by the ladder. He is dry. A doctor from the freighter will examine him on board, as he must be slightly hypothermic after his night in the life raft. Relieved Kirsten resumed her course in the southern seas”, explains Sébastien Delasnerie.

After this rescue, Kirsten exchanged her few words with the GGR Race Direction. “I got my adrenaline pumping. I helmed the whole night. It’s something special to maneuver so close to a big commercial ship. But everything is fine. (…) No need congratulations on this rescue. Anyone would have done the same for another sailor. Thank you for the coordination.”

No need for congratulations on this rescue. Everyone would have done the same for another sailor

Kirsten Neuschäfer, skipper of Minnehaha

Don McIntyre, founder of the GGR is also breathing after hours of anguish. “Wow!!! Well done to everyone involved in the successful rescue of Tapio, which was a huge effort. Thanks Abhilash for confusing you and staying close. Kirsten, your experience of the sea and your spirit will apart. Your efforts have written another chapter in life and forged a special bond with Tapio. Welcome back Tapio…Your family is waiting for you.”

At 64, Finnish skipper Tapio Lehtinen had already participated in the last edition of the Golden Globe Race in 2018. He finished 5th and last competitor in this old-fashioned, solo, non-stop, unassisted round-the-world race. He had spent 300 days at sea, slowed down by an infestation of barnacles on the hull of his sailboat Asteria. Tapio must take the start in September 2023, of the Ocean Globe Race, a race this time with a crew.

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Golden Globe Race: Tapio Lehtinen saved and dry on a cargo ship after sinking