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Solo yachtsman rescued after three days adrift at sea

By Katie Hunt, for CNN
January 21, 2013 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
  • Solo yachtsman rescued after three days adrift in life raft
  • Cruise ship made a 60-hour detour to recover the French sailor
  • Alain Delord abandoned his yacht after mast broke in rough weather
  • Delord and cruise ship on way to Hobart, Australia

Hong Kong (CNN) -- A round-the-world yachtsman is on his way to dry land after spending almost three days adrift in a life raft buffeted by strong winds and rough seas off the southern coast of Australia.

Alain Delord, a French sailor, was rescued by an adventure cruise ship 500 nautical miles south west of Hobart, Tasmania late on Sunday, a spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) told CNN.

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The vessel, the MV Orion, made a 60-hour detour to respond to the distress signal and its captain said the rescue took place in "scary" weather conditions, with poor visibility and waves that swelled up to 3.5 meters.

"We were probably only half a mile away when we saw the raft," Captain Mike Taylor told ABC Radio.

Alain Delord's life raft is pictured adrift in seas south of Australia and shortly before his rescue by the cruise ship Orion Alain Delord's life raft is pictured adrift in seas south of Australia and shortly before his rescue by the cruise ship Orion
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"I mean it was just swallowed up in the long ocean swells. You'd see it bob to the top and then disappear."

Delord, an experienced sailor, had abandoned his yacht on Friday after the mast snapped and the hull sustained damage during his round-the-world journey.

According to his Facebook page, Delord embarked on his solo voyage at the end of October.

Taylor said the yachtsman was doing better-than-expected after spending two nights in a life raft "the size of a small car".

"When I saw him, he was under the doctor's care, he looked pretty much overwhelmed. He'd probably been in fear of his life for two days."

"He was very glad to be here and I'm pretty sure he'll be fine going forward. No major injuries."

While the Orion made its way toward Delord's life raft, aircraft dropped food, communication equipment and other supplies. His location was considered too remote for a helicopter rescue.

Despite the departure from their itinerary, passengers on board the Antarctic cruise gave "a cheer that ran the length of the ship" when the sailor was rescued, Taylor said.

Photographs posted on Orion Expedition Cruises' Facebook page showed a frail-looking Delord meeting expedition leaders.

The cruise ship is due to arrive in Hobart around 8 a.m. local time on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET Monday).

Jo Meehan, spokesperson for AMSA, said that the Orion's crew had displayed exemplary seamanship and had put Delord's safety "ahead of their commercial interests."

"They deserve the highest praise for adhering to the law of the sea," she said.

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