Point of rescue: Susie Goodall being lifted by deck crane from her yacht to the safety of the cargo ship Tian Fu. Image: Andrey Zashibis Tkachenko/ MV Tian Fu/GGR/PPL

The crew of the Hong Kong registered cargo ship MV Tian Fu successfully rescued the distressed British yachtswoman Susie Goodall Friday, some 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn after a tense operation to get her 36ft yacht DHL Starlight alongside the 38,000 ton general cargo vessel.

The ship is now bound for Punta Arenas, Chile and expected to reach port on 14th December.

Goodall (29) from Falmouth UK was the sole women and youngest skipper competing in the Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race, which started from La Sables d’Olonne, France on July 1st. One of 17 starters, she was lying in 4th place and challenging for a podium finish when her 36ft yacht was pitch poled and dismasted during a ferocious storm.

Sheltering below at the time, she was thrown across the cabin and knocked unconscious. Only when she came to, did she fully realise the situation. Her boat, a rugged Rustler 36 production yacht heavily modified for the Race, was wrecked and inside flooded and totally trashed with the contents of lockers and draws strewn across the cabin.  On deck, DHL Starlight’s rig and two spinnaker poles that she had planned to utilise as a jury rig in the event of a dismasting, had been swept away.

The first the world knew of her situation was at 10:30 UTC Wednesday 5th December when HM Coastguard’s MCC (Mission Control Centre) in Fareham UK picked up an EPIRB distress alert from the yacht, starting a tense 50 hour international rescue operation involving British and Chilean rescue authorities and an all-ships alert.

Goodall’s nearest competitor, Estonian sailor Uku Randmaa sailing an identical yacht to DHL Starlight was 400 miles ahead and about to face the same storm, so could not turn back. American/Hungarian sailor Istvan Kopar was 780 miles behind and not expected to reach Susie’s position for another 6 days.

She worked to get the flooded engine to start and prepared herself to be taken off the yacht. The plan was for her to motor DHL Starlight up against the lee side of the ship  grab the hook from a deck crane and get lifted up by her life harness. But the first attempt failed when her engine stopped just as she was about to manoeuvre her boat into position. Exact details of the evacuation remain sketchy, but news that the 50 hour intense vigil had come to a safe conclusion came with the a text message:

07 Dec 15:14 UTC:  ON THE SHIP!!!  followed by a photograph of her being hoisted aboard the ship on the end of the crane.

The MV ‘Tian Fu is now continuing its voyage but making a transit stop off Punta Arenas, Chile on December 14 where Susie will be transferred ashore to be met on the dockside by The British Consul John Rees.

After the rescue, Don McIntyre, the GGR Race Chairman said:
“While that first phone call from UK Coastguard came as a shock, it is great to now look back at a very professional operation by an international team led by MRCC CHILE and the Master and crew of the TIAN FUending with a successful outcome, Susie Goodall safely winched aboard ship. We will always be grateful for the efforts of all in this challenging situation.”

Ian Guy, Duty Controller for the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency added: “This was a very demanding long range rescue which was made even more complex because it was taking place 2,000nm off Cape Horn. During this period, Susie was at the mercy of 7m seas and severe weather and it’s a credit to her that she remained in good spirits during this tense wait. Whilst this was happening, HM Coastguard remained in continuous contact with MRCC Chile and Golden Globe Race HQ.

“In this weather and at this range, it was vital that we provided as much assistance as possible to the lead agency MRCC Chile, and we maintained a watchful eye over the situation for updates via satellite phone. Our priority is to protect life at sea and we will always do everything possible to provide assistance for a mariner in need. In the event we can’t get there ourselves, we do our best to identify someone who can which is exactly what we did in this case. Although this must have been harrowing for Susie, this is a superb example of international co-operation and we would like to thank Golden Globe Race HQ, MRCC Chile, MV Tian Fu, MV Talimen, and all those who have played their part in bringing this rescue to a textbook and safe conclusion.”

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