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Thursday, November 29, 2007

"I feel lucky to be alive!"

The title of this blog is the words of U.K. Yachtsman Tony Peters in responding to a BBC reporter. This BBC news is what I'll call a blogger's treat -- a story of freaque wave with a happy ending:
Yachtsman Tony Peters was halfway between Durban in South Africa and Fremantle in Australia during a round-the-world race when a freak wave sent him flying across the deck. He tells BBC Berkshire's Phil Kennedy about how he feels lucky to be alive.
Here's some interesting Q and A between Kennedy and Peters:

Before we get to the main story, what injuries have you sustained from this freak wave?

"I've got off quite lightly - I've got a broken nose and a cut across my forehead but that's it actually."

Tell us the story, you're in the middle of nowhere and ...what is a freak wave? How big was it?

"We knew it was going to be a large wave because we were down in the Indian Ocean which is actually one of the reasons I wanted to do the race.

"We were out on watch and thankfully I had the harness on, I was clipped on so that helped to save me.

"I had my back to the bow and unfortunately we just hit an enormous wave and it sent me flying across the deck and I hit my head on what we call the 'traveller', which is the boon that hit me on the forehead.

"There was quite a lot of blood but thankfully I wasn't unconcious so I was able to tell my colleagues what to do."

So lets just put this into context, you weren't sailing on your own were you?

"No there's 14 of us and there's 10 yachts in total racing around the world."

So what happened after that? Why is it they decided to send you home?

"Well, we have a link to Falmouth Coast Guard and they can link us directly to the doctor which we did do. That was all being done by the skipper while I was being treated on board.

"Because I had sustained quite a severe head injury the advice was that I needed to get off the boat and get to a hospital as soon as possible.

"So to be honest I knew straight away that that was what was needed but we were 350 miles out of Durban at the time and it was too windy for the helicopter to come out.

"They diverted a tanker but it was just too rough to get me off the yacht and onto the tanker but the tanker crew were very good and they stayed with us while we turned the yacht back around towards Durban and stayed with us all night.

"Then a South African frigate replaced the tanker and again they tried to get me onto that yesterday but it was just too rough at sea to do a transfer safely.

"The frigate escorted us back to Durban and eventually I was taken off the yacht by lifeboat and then taken to hospital.

"I spent most of last night in hospital and was discharged this morning and I'm now flying back to the UK."

How did it feel? I suppose when you're in that situation and you're miles from anywhere it's not easy to be rescued. Is it quite scary?

"I think at the time I was more concentrating on me and thankfully the crew on board were looking after me and monitoring my condition, so there wasn't much time to be scared to be honest.

"It was just a matter of getting me down below deck and making the arrangements to get me ashore."

Does it feel weird to be at the airport knowing that your colleagues are still on the yacht? Now that they've come back to Durban are they going to head off again to Fremantle or is that it?

"No, as soon as I was put onto the lifeboat they turned around straight back out to sea so my thoughts are with them now they are on their way back over to Australia.

"What I'm planning on doing is getting back to the UK and spending some time with my family and then I'm back on the plane to Fremantle to meet the yacht.

I think the most crucial part of the story is the fact that he had the harness on. That is more effective than just a life jacket. By all means have both a life jacket and a harness if possible. Safety first, safety second, and safety always! It's no need to be heroic or a dare devil out there -- especially not a dead hero!

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